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Meek ready to go?

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Reliever Evan Meek (bruised right hand) is playing catch this morning and said he feels ready to return to action. However, even as Meek was working out on the field, manager John Russell sounded a more cautious approach about Meek’s availability.

“It’s a possibility, but we’re looking more that it probably will be tomorrow,” Russell said.

»»» Right-hander Brad Lincoln will start today in the season finale for Triple-A Indianapolis. This will be Lincoln’s second start since coming off the DL (sore neck) and he’s on a 60-65 pitch count. If management is being that cautious with him, is he really an option to move into the Pirates’ starting rotation later this week? I wouldn’t necessarily rule it out.

»»» Indy outfielder Alex Presley goes into this afternoon’s game with 166 hits. That ties him with Nate McLouth for the fifth-most hits in a season by a Pirates minor leaguer. The leader is Jim Negrych, who had 170 hits in 2008. Ray Navarrete is fourth with 169 in 2002.

»»» Russell had good things to say about Joe Martinez’s debut yesterday with the Pirates: “He kept the ball down, had a little bit of sink and used his breaking ball. He was pretty efficient in the strike zone.”

»»» When Russell played for the Braves in 1989, Bobby Cox was Atlanta’s GM. “Bobby’s a guy I’ve always respected,” Russell said. “He’s had a great career.”

This series will be Cox’s last one in Pittsburgh. He’ll retire after the season.

“Not to see him in that dugout anymore is going to be a strange thing,” Russell said. “He’s been a fixture in Atlanta for so long and he’s been in baseball for so long, it’s going to be weird not seeing him around.”

»»» Russell spent time this morning working with Pedro Alvarez at third base. Alvarez hit a 447-foot homer Sunday and has reached base in seven of his past eight games, but he continues to strike out a lot and is batting just .232.

“It’s still a learning process,” Russell said. “He’s got to learn how to fight through it. He hasn’t played this much baseball in a long time. It’s a daily grind. He’s got to find a way to relax out there, but he’ll work through it. He’s in a little bit of a funk right now, but with as hard as he works, he get out of it.”

»»» Delwyn Young will start in right field today. Russell also has used Ryan Doumit and John Bowker at the spot, resulting in less playing time for Lastings Milledge.

“We’ve got some guys we’d like to get some playing time,” Russell said. “It’s a position where we can move some guys around and get a look at them.”

»»» Russell on the Maz statue dedication ceremony yesterday: “What a great day. It gave me goosebumps when I watched.”

Lineups for this afternoon’s game:

Braves (79-58) – 1. Omar Infante 2b, 2. Jason Heyward rf, 3. Martin Prado 3b, 4. Derrek Lee 1b, 5. Matt Diaz lf, 6. Alex Gonzalez ss, 7. David Ross c, 8. Nate McLouth cf, 9. Tommy Hanson (9-10, 3.60) rhp

Pirates (45-90) – 1. Andrew McCutchen 8, 2. Jose Tabata lf, 3. Neil Walker 2b, 4. Garrett Jones 1b, 5. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 6. Ryan Doumit c, 7. Delwyn Young rf, 8. Ronny Cedeno ss, 9. Brian Burres (2-3, 6.31) lhp

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