d’Arnaud, Presley, Lincoln on the way

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A lot of y’nz already have asked me why Josh Harrison was sent down to Indy today instead of Pedro Ciriaco, who never plays. Here’s the way I expect all these roster moves to shake down and why …

Infielder Chase d’Arnaud will be called up from the minors and join the Pirates on Friday. Outfielder Alex Presley will be promoted Tuesday for the start of the series against the Toronto Blue Jays. Pitcher Brad Lincoln will get a callup July 2 to make a spot start in the second game of a doubleheader against the Washington Nationals.

Harrison’s spot on the active roster will be filled by d’Arnaud, a fourth-round draft pick in 2008 who this year is batting .280 with four home runs at Indy.

Manager Clint Hurdle already has made it clear he would like to have Presley — who’s hitting .330 with eight homers at Indy — available for an interleague series where the designated hitter is used. When Presley is called up Tuesday, infielder Pedro Ciriaco will go back to Indianpolis.

After the three games against the Blue Jays, the Pirates will option either Presley, d’Arnaud or a reliever to Indianapolis and bring up Lincoln. The right-hander is 6-6 with a 3.82 ERA in 13 starts this year.

Remember, under MLB rules, a player who is sent to the minors cannot be recalled for 10 days unless someone goes on the DL. On July 3, Harrison will be eligible for a recall to the Pirates, and he will rejoin the team at that point (with Lincoln going back to Indy) to provide infielder depth on the bench. By sending Harrison down first instead of Ciriaco, the Pirates can bring him back sooner and the team will have only two days — July 1 and 2 in Washington — in which it’s short an infielder. By sending Harrison down first, the Pirates are actually showing he figures in their long-term plans this season. Ciriaco, not so much.

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In-game: Moskos tweaks delivery

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Lefty reliever Daniel Moskos has not been used much lately. Some of that is due to the success of Tony Watson, who has been scored upon just once in his first eight outings. But a big reason is Moskos and pitching coach Ray Searage are working to smooth out a significant tweak to his delivery.

“I was real inconsistent with my timing as I go through my delivery,” Moskos said. “What we decided to do was take out the leg kick from the stretch, so I have more of a pinch-and-go or a quick step. It’s not a slide step, but it’s a quick step. It takes out some of the moving parts. It’s a body control as well as a pitch control thing. I think it’s going to allow me to be more consistent and stiff not sacrifice stuff. I was able to take it right into game action (Monday) and be pretty consistent with it. That’s encouraging.”

Moskos tossed two scoreless innings Monday against the Orioles and gave up an infield single to the only lefty batter he faced, Nick Markakis. Although Moskos is upbeat about his progress, manager Clint Hurdle is taking a more cautious approach.

“He’s only thrown one time … I need to see it (more oftren) in games,” Hurdle said. “You see a lot of good work done on the side and in the cage. Heck, I could hit good b.p. When you transition to the game, that’s what we’re looking for. What I did see was still a good sinker, he handled the right-handers pretty well. The one left-handed hitter, he did throw one slider up in the zone and Markakis topped it to the right side. He didn’t get off the mound and cover. We need to look for those opportunities where he can face a couple more left-handed hitters.”

An opportunity arose in the seventh inning today — and it showed Moskos still has work to do. Moskos started the inning against Markakis, who legged out an infield single to the left side. That was enough for Hurdle, who immediately replaced Moskos with Chris Resop.

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Pregame: Cedeno benched

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Manager Clint Hurdle was not thrilled last night when Ronny Cedeno chose on his own to drop down a bunt with the bases loaded. The bunt rolled foul, so Cedeno got another try …. and grounded into an inning-ending double play.

Cedeno is not in the lineup today. “The manager picked a day off for Ronny,” Hurdle said, grinning. “It’s a good day to regain focus.”

»»» Relievers Daniel McCutchen and Tim Wood are not available today to avoid the possibility of over-use. As a precaution, Jeff Karstens will not throw his scheduled bullpen session and will be available to relieve if needed.

»»» The 12:35 p.m. start today means a quick turnaround from last night’s game, but both teams are breaking an unwritten rule by using the same catcher in a day game after a night game. “I think I can handle it,” Mike McKenry said with a laugh. “He’s 26 years old. He can catch today,” Hurdle said.

»»» The Pirates are 1-8 in day games at PNC Park this year.

»»» Last night’s crowd of 33,806 included at least 3,000 walk-up sales (the Pirates do not release specific ticket sale info) and it could be a healthy sized crowd here today. Pirates officials expect Saturday’s game against the Red Sox to challenge for the largest single-game crowd ever at PNC Park.

Lineups for today’s game:

Orioles (33-38) – 1. J.J. Hardy ss, 2. Nick Markakis rf, 3. Adam Jones cf, 4. Derrek Lee 1b, 5. Matt Wieters c, 6. Luke Scott lf, 7. Mark Reynolds 3b, 8. Blake Davis 2b, 9. Zach Britton lhp (6-4, 3.10)

Pirates (36-37) – 1. Jose Tabata lf, 2. Josh Harrison 3b, 3. Andrew McCutchen cf, 4. Neil Walker 2b, 5. Matt Diaz rf, 6. Garrett Jones 1b 7. Brandon Wood ss, 8. Mike McKenry c, 9. Kevin Correia rhp (8-6, 3.60)

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Morton will skip next start

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Right-hander Charlie Morton will not make his next turn in the rotation Sunday against the Red Sox. His next start is set for July 1 against the Nats — an 11-day break designed to give him time to rest and figure out what’s going wrong.

Charlie Morton's next outing will come on 11 days' rest. (Getty Images)
Charlie Morton's next outing will come on 11 days' rest. (Getty Images)

“We all wish every player’s development could be linear, that it went from Point A to Point B and always got better,” GM Neal Huntington said. “The reality is, it’s more peaks and valleys. Charlie right now has thrown a lot of pitches. He’s thrown some high-intensity pitches and high-intensity innings, and right now we’re in one of those valleys. He’s got to dig himself out of it. We wanted to be a little bit cautious and help him dig out of it quicker.”

Even with Morton on the shelf, the Pirates will not need to bring up another starting pitcher because they are off on Thursday and Monday. However, righty James McDonald will start Sunday on just four days’ rest.

The Pirates will have to make a roster move before the second game of the July 2 doubleheader at Washington. Right-hander Brad Lincoln, who is 6-6 with a 3.82 ERA in 13 starts at Triple-A Indianapolis, almost certainly will get the call.

Manager Clint Hurdle also is keeping close tabs on McDonald and Jeff Karstens, who both have had stamina issues in the past.

“It would not surprise me if we have another guy or two have to skip a start somewhere along the line,” Hurdle said. “Very rarely do you see five men, as we’ve had, get to this point without anybody going down. I’ve been kind of expecting it, just because of the history of the game and what I’ve seen.”

»»» It was great to see catcher Chris Snyder, on the mend from back surgery, up and about in the clubhouse and on the field during batting practice. Snides is on the 60-day DL, but told me he expects to get back in action, even if it’s just for a handful of games, before the season is out. “We certainly hope he comes back,” Huntington said. “He’s very optimistic and upbeat.”

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Pregame: J-Rod returns

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The Pirates re-acquired Josh Rodriguez from the Indians in exchange for cash or a player to be named later. This appears to be a depth move and not indicative of an impending change at the major league level.

The Pirates claimed Rodriguez in December in the Rule 5 draft and he made the team out of spring training, but he was returned to the Indians on April 29. J-Rod appeared in seven games for the Pirates and hit 1 for 12. He played in four games at shortstop and one at second base. After being sent back to the Indians, Rodriguez was assigned to Triple-A Columbus, where he played third base and left field. He hit .193 (11 for 57) and played in only 18 games.

»»» The Pirates signed their 33rd-round draft pick, infielder Chris Lashmet out of Northwestern. The Pirates have come to terms with 10 draft picks. They also signed right-hander Joe Parsons, an undrafted free agent out of Virginia Tech. Parsons went 7-3 with a 3.12 ERA in 15 outings as a senior with the Hokies.

»»» Indy manager Dean Treanor was named to the International League squad’s coaching staff for the Triple-A all-star game.

Lineups for today’s game:

Orioles (33-37) – 1. J.J. Hardy ss, 2. Nick Markakis rf, 3. Adam Jones cf, 4. Derrek Lee 1b, 5. Matt Wieters c, 6. Luke Scott lf, 7. Mark Reynolds 3b, 8. Robert Andino 2b, 9. Jeremy Guthrie rhp (2-8, 3.56)

Pirates (35-37) – 1. Jose Tabata lf, 2. Josh Harrison 3b, 3. Garrett Jones 1b, 4. Andrew McCutchen cf, 5. Neil Walker 2b, 6. Xavier Paul rf, 7. Ronny Cedeno ss, 8. Mike McKenry c, James McDonald rhp (5-4, 4.80)

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Post-game: Morton discusses possibility of fatigue

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Charlie Morton said after tonight’s loss to the Orioles that he knows there hasn’t been the same life in the ball as there has been lately, and that his velocity’s down. He’s still getting good movement on the ball, but he’s making pitches where he’s been confident he’s going to get ground-ball outs and they turn into hits.

But it’s not a matter of not hitting spots the way he was earlier in the season, because Morton said he wasn’t hitting spots earlier in the season.

He was just throwing down in the zone and opposing batters were hitting it into the ground.

“Just because the ball was moving and it had great life on it,” he said. “If it wasn’t moving, I wouldn’t have gotten swings and misses and strikeouts. But the thing is, on a consistent basis, I was keeping the ball down, pretty much. I haven’t really felt like a pitcher, per se. I’ve felt like a thrower this year because I’ve been able to aim low in the zone and have guys hit into the ground.”

Moving forward, Morton said, he wants to work on locating his pitches, with movement. He’ll learn how to do it, it will just take time.

And time is something it sounds like manager Clint Hurdle may want to limit in the near future.

“The first thing we can do is help him regain some stamina,” Hurdle said. “That is the biggest thing for me. Is he tired? No. Does he feel strong? Yes. But is there some fatigue involved? Absolutely.”

Morton said he doesn’t know if something like skipping a start would help, but if that’s what happens, he hopes it is to his advantage.

“The biggest thing is to not push the panic button,” he said. “I know what the problem is, I know they’re getting better swings on the ball and squaring the ball up a little better than they were before, and I know why. The only thing is I need to know how to fix it. If it’s skipping a start or adjusting workload, that’s something we’ll look into.”

One thing Morton said won’t be a problem, unlike last year, will be his own over-analysis of tonight’s bad outing.

“I’ll be one of the least analytical people in Pittsburgh about this,” Morton said. “I’ve pitched too well for too long for this to go out the window.”

= Hurdle said that Morton isn’t the only one who’s pitched more innings through the same point in the season that at any other time in his career, adding James McDonald, Jeff Karstens and even Kevin Correia to that list. “Those are just things you pay attention to,” he said.

= Former Pirates manager and current Orioles third base coach John Russell stayed in the dugout tonight while bench coach Willie Randolph coached at third. Russell’s knee has been bothering him, although he was at third base over the weekend, and there has to be some question as to whether it was to shield Russell from the boo-birds. Here’s what Orioles manager Buck Showalter had to say about it: “It was a combination of things. The knee’s been barking a little bit, plus I want to get him closer to the catchers between innings and stuff. We talked about it a little bit. Plus with John coming back here to Pittsburgh, I wanted him a little closer to me to talk about his knowledge of the Pirates a little bit. It was three-fold.”

= Hurdle said he saw some better at-bats, although it didn’t show in the score. “I can’t sugar coat it. We got five hits, one player had three.”

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Pregame: Hello, Cleveland!

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CLEVELAND — Hello, Cleveland! Rock and roll! (If you’ve never seen “This is Spinal Tap,” then you won’t get the reference.)

»»» The Pirates are three games back of the Brewers. It’s the first time they’ve been so close to the top this late in the season since Sept. 9, 1997, when they were in second place with a 70-74 record, 2.5 games behind the Astros.

»»» Righty reliever Mike Crotta (elbow) was sent to Double-A Altoona to begin a rehab stint. … Another Curve-related note: outfielder Anthony Norman is 7 for 15 since being promoted from extended spring training. Norman, 26, was signed as a minor league free agent in January 2010.

»»» When they finish this three-game series against the Tribe, the Pirates will take chartered buses back to Pittsburgh.

Lineups for today’s game:
Pirates (35-33) — 1. Jose Tabata lf, 2. Xavier Paul rf, 3. Andrew McCutchen cf, 4. Neil Walker 2b, 5. Garrett Jones dh, 6. Lyle Overbay 1b, 7. Josh Harrison 3b, 8. Mike McKenry c, 9. Ronny Cedeno ss. Kevin Correia rhp (8-5, 3.73)
Indians (36-31) — 1. Grady Sizemore cf, 2. Michael Brantley lf, 3. Asdrubal Cabrera ss, 4. Travis Hafner dh, 5. Shin-Soo Choo rf, 6. Carlos Santana c, 7. Matt LaPorta 1b, 8. Orlando Cabrera 2b, 9. Jack Hannahan 3b. Josh Tomlin rhp (7-4, 4.14)

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Pregame: McCutchen saves the pen

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HOUSTON — Lost amid the flurry of late-game runs in the Pirates’ 7-3 victory Wednesday was a fine performance by middle reliever Daniel McCutchen. The right-hander tossed three scoreless innings, giving his mates time to extend their lead and saving the bullpen from being overworked.
“We really needed something from somebody tonight,” manager Clint Hurdle said, noting that Joel Hanrahan, Jose Veras and Tim Wood each went into the game having pitched in the two previous games. “Danny giving us three was good. McCutchen really stepped up for us tonight.”
It was McCutchen’s longest outing since spring training. He faced 13 batters and threw 52 pitches (31 strikes).
“Frankie (Velasquez, conditioning coordinator) does a great job keeping us in shape in case a situation like that comes up,” McCutchen said. “Charlie (Morton) pitched and kept us in it, then it was up to me to keep us in it, then Hanrahan shut the door. The whole team is playing with lot of confidence.”

»»» Hanrahan got the final two outs to rack up his 19th save. But it also means he will not be available to pitch Thursday in the series finale. It’s no stretch to say that Hanny, who’s notched 21 straight saves, is the frontrunner to be the Pirates’ All-Star rep.

»»» Catcher Mike McKenry got his first career hit, a soft single over the head of shortstop Clint Barmes in the second inning. It came off lefty J.A. Happ. McKenry singled again in the seventh and was on base when Xavier Paul homered.

»»» Garrett Jones today will start at first base for the first time this season. Lyle Overbay is mired in a 1-for-16 funk and is hitting .220 (11 for 50) in June.

»» Here’s some food for thought: yesterday, the Padres DFA’d infielder Jorge Cantu. A right-handed hitter, he’s got some versatility — he can play first, third or even second base in a pinch. He has shown power in the past, but hit just .194 with three homers in 57 games this season. He spent last season with the Rangers and Marlins and hit a combined .256 with 11 homers in 127 games. Cantu, 29, had his best season in 2008, when he hit .277 with 29 homers and 95 RBI for the Marlins.

»»» Josh Harrison, who got a new shipment of bats this morning, is back in the lineup after missing a few days with a sore oblique.

»»» Andrew McCutchen is riding a 14-game hitting streak, the longest by a Pirate since Jose Tabata had a 14-game string from Aug. 23-Sept. 12, 2010. During his run, McCutchen is hitting .479 and has boosted his batting average 46 points to .293. If he keeps up that kind of pace, McCutchen will be squarely in the mix for an All-Star bid.

»»» Neil Walker has hit safely in each of his past 11 road games — going 17 for 44 (.386) with 12 RBI in that stretch. Since May 2, he’s hit safely in 18 of his past 19 road games.

»»» The Pirates and Astros combined to strand 27 baserunners Wednesday. That’s the most in a Pirates game since April 7, 2008, when they and Chicago Cubs left 27 on base. “We could’ve used a few more (hits) to stretch things out,” Hurdle said.

Lineups for today’s game:
Pirates (34-33) — 1. Jose Tabata lf, 2. Xavier Paul rf, 3. Andrew McCutchen cf, 4. Neil Walker 2b, 5. Garrett Jones 1b, 6. Josh Harrison 3b, 7. Ronny Cedeno ss, 8. Dusty Brown c, 9. James McDonald rhp (4-4, 4.80)
Astros (25-44) — 1. Michael Bourn cf, 2. Jeff Keppinger 2b, 3. Hunter Pence rf, 4. Carlos Lee lf, 5. Brett Wallace 1b, 6. Matt Downs 3b, 7. Angel Sanchez ss, 8. Carlos Corporan c, 9. Jordan Lyles rhp (0-1, 4.15)

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Pregame: No DL for Josh Harrison

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HOUSTON — A stint on the disabled list no longer is a possibility for infielder Josh Harrison (oblique). Harrison fielded, ran and swung a bat during early batting practice on the field this afternoon and reported no physical problems. Harrison is available off the bench tonight in a pinch, and manager Clint Hurdle said Harrison will likely be “in play” tomorrow. “It’s always good when the DL is not an option,” Harrison said.

»»» Left-hander Joe Beimel (elbow) made 25 tosses from 70 feet on flat ground, and said he feels fine physically after yesterday’s bullpen session. However, Beimel said his first workout on the mound after a 10-day layoff showed he has a lot of strength to rebuild. “The first 10 pitches off the mound were fine,” Beimel said. “But after that, it felt like the balls had parachutes on them. The balls barely got there.” It’s not a setback, Beimel stressed. “I felt outstanding today,” he said. “The ball was carrying real well (in soft toss). It could just be that my timing was off, getting on the mound again.”

»»» Tuesday’s game marked the Pirates’ first 1-0 victory since a 12-inning win on June 20, 2008 against Toronto at PNC Park. It was their first 1-0 road win since Sept. 2, 2006 at St. Louis.

»»» According to Elias, last night marked the third time in major league history that 10 pitchers were used in a 1-0, nine-inning game. The other two games — San Diego at Colorado in 2008 and San Francisco at San Diego in 2010 — both were played in September with expanded rosters.

»»» Texas Tech lefty Robbie Kilcrease signed with the Pirates as a non-drafted free agent and was sent to the rookie ball team in Bradenton, Fla. Kilcrease, a junior, made 17 outings, including a team-high 12 starts, this season for the Red Raiders and went 5-3 with a 5.97 ERA. In 63 1/3 innings, he had 39 strikeouts and 21 walks.

»»» On their massive video scoreboard, the Astros ran a spot featuring President George H. W. Bush talking about what it takes to run a successful campaign. At the end, Bush, who’s sitting in front of an American flag and speaking over patriotic music, urged everyone in the ballpark to vote all the Astros into the All-Star Game. Who could the Pirates employ to compete with that? James Buchanan? Sophie Masloff?

Lineups for tonight’s game:
Pirates (33-33) — 1. Jose Tabata lf, 2. Matt Diaz rf, 3. Andrew McCutchen cf, 4. Neil Walker 2b, 5. Lyle Overbay 1b, 6. Brandon Wood 3b, 7. Mike McKenry c, 8. Ronny Cedeno ss, 9. Charlie Morton rhp (6-3, 3.08)
Astros (25-43) — 1. Jason Bourgeois cf, 2. Jeff Keppinger 2b, 3. Hunter Pence rf, 4. Carlos Lee lf, 5. Brett Wallace 1b, 6. Chris Johnson 3b, 7. Clint Barmes ss, 8. J.R. Towles c, 9. J.A. Happ lhp (3-8, 5.04)

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