Hughes-Phillips controversy rages on

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CINCINNATI — The Reds’ Brandon Phillips doubled down on his charge that Jared Hughes made a racist slur during the game Monday. In an interview with NBC’s SportsTalk, Phillips told Erik Kuselias that Hughes “said what he said” after Phillips was hit by a pitch. Phillips said it was the first time he’d heard a player make a racist comment on the field during a game. When Kesilias pressed Phillips to confrim Hughes made an offensive remark, Phillips paused then said, “He did. That’s what we talked about. If you wnt to know what he said, you should ask him.”

Hughes continues to deny he made any derogatory remarks to Phillips. Today, the Pirates released this statement from Hughes: “In response to Brandon Phillips’ TV interview yesterday, prior to the game, I feel compelled to once again make it perfectly clear that I did not make any comment with a racial undertone or connotation during our exchange on Monday night, period. While I cannot repeat everything that I said because I did swear, it is obvious when reviewing the tape that I in no way, shape or form made any remark that was in any way connected to race. It is not how I was raised and not who I am as a person.”

»»» Gaby Sanchez is batting .327 (17 for 52) since joining the Pirates. He broke an 0-for-7 funk with a two-run homer in the seventh inning last night. It was his third career pinch-hit home run.

Game 142: Pirates @ Reds, 7:10 p.m. ET

Pirates (72-69): 1. Brock Holt 2b, 2. Alex Presley lf, 3. Andrew McCutchen cf, 4. Garrett Jones rf, 5. Gaby Sanchez 1b, 6. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 7. Clinbt Barmes ss, 8. Rod Barajas c, 9. A.J. Burnett rhp (15-6, 3.68)

Reds: (86-57): 1. Brandon Phillips 2b, 2. Wilson Valdez ss, 3. Joey Votto 1b, 4. Ryan Ludwick lf, 5. Jay Bruce rf, 6. Scott Rolen 3b, 7. Chris Heisey cf, 8. Ryan Hanigan c, 9. Homer Bailey rhp (10-9, 4.03)

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Hurdle: Good to see emotion

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CINCINNATI — Last night (actually, early this morning) manager Clint Hurdle did not want to be drawn into a critique of Brandon Phillips’ ball-tossing antics after Phillips was hit by a pitch. But, Hurdle was pleased with how Jared Hughes and A.J. Burnett stood up for themselves and their teammates. “Our guys play with emotion,” Hurdle said. “They are tied to one another, they are tied to the name on the front of the jersey. They want to fight through this and win games together. So, yes, that’s an important part of who we are and you like seeing it from your team.”

»»» Andrew McCutchen has 26 homers, the most by a Pirates right-handed batter since Jason Bay hit 35 home runs in 2006. … Rod Barajas has hit safely in seven of his past 11 games, yet is batting just .237 (9 for 38) in that span. … Starling Marte snapped an 0-for-11 slump with a double in the ninth inning last night. … Jared Hughes has made 58 appearances, which is tied with the Padres’ Brad Brach for the lead among NL rookies.

»»» Judging by this response from assistant GM Kyle Stark, it doesn’t sound like reliever Evan Meek, who was DFA’ed on Monday, will rejoin the Pirates if he isn’t claimed by another club. “We’ll see how things progress with Evan, based on what is out there for him and the potential financial fit with us,” Stark said via email. Last offseason, Meek avoided arbitration by signing for $875,000. He would’ve gotten another $25,000 if he had pitched 50 innings for the Pirates. Meek, wnho pitched 12 innings in the majors this season, has two years of arbitration eligibility left.

Game 141: Pirates @ Reds, 7:10 p.m. ET

Pirates (72-68): 1. Brock Holt 2b, 2. Alex Presley lf, 3. Andrew McCutchen cf, 4. Garrett Jones 1b, 5. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 6. Jose Tabata rf, 7. Michael McKenry c, 8. Clint Barmes ss, 9. Kevin Correia rhp (10-8, 4.28)

Reds: (85-57): 1. Brandon Phillips 2b, 2. Drew Stubbs cf, 3. Joey Votto 1b, 4. Ryan Ludwick lf, 5. Jay Bruce rf, 6. Scott Rolen 3b, 7. Dioner Navarro c, 8. Wilson Valdez ss, 9. Mike Leake rhp (7-9, 4.73)

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Tweet adds to Pirates-Reds tension

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CINCINATI — Reds 2B Brandon Phillips has indicated via Twitter that some player — he did not specify which team — made a racially charged comment to during a brief altercation in Monday’s game. Phillips was hit on the leg by a pitch from reliever Jared Hughes in the eighth inning. The next few minutes were tense, as Phillips tossed the ball back in Hughes’ direction and there was some barking back and forth among several players on the field and in the dugouts.

After the game, Phillips posted this on Twitter: “#RealTalk… Not really surprised by what I heard come outta another player’s mouth tonite but DAMN… Still PISSED bout that $h¡+!! #Racism”

I spoke by phone with someone with the Pirates shortly after Phillips tweet was posted (around 2 a.m.) and I was told the club is aware of tweet. In the clubhouse after the game, I asked Hughes what words he and others and Phillips exchanged on field. “I don’t know,” Hughes said. “It was so loud out there, I couldn’t hear.” I’m sure there will be reaction from both sides before today’s game. Relations between the Pirates and Reds already were strained after Andrew McCutchen was hit by a pitch from Aroldis Chapman in the game on Aug. 3.

Stay tuned …

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Meek DFA’ed, van den Hurk called up

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CINCINNATI — It was no surprise today when reliever Evan Meek was designated for assignment to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for Rick van den Hurk, who was called up from Triple-A Indy. Meek, an All-Star in 2010, hasn’t been the same pitcher the past two seasons, and there clearly was no future for him with the Pirates. Van den Hurk began the year with the Orioles, who cut him in February. He signed with the Blue Jays and a month later was claimed off waivers by the Indians. The righty was granted free agency in April and signed with the Pirates. He went 13-5 with a 2.92 EAR in 21 games (19 starts) with Indy.

»»» The Pirates also recalled INF Chase d’Arnaud and RHP Bryan Morris. The club needs to figure out what its plans are for Morris, who’ll be out of minor league options next year.

»»» Lefty Wandy Rodriguez goes into tonight’s game riding a 13-inning scoreless streak, the fifth-longest active string in the NL. Rodriguez tossed seven scoreless innings Tuesday against Houston and six on Aug. 29 against the Cardinals.

Game 140: Pirates @ Reds, 7:10 p.m. ET

Pirates (72-67): 1. Brock Holt 2b, 2. Alex Presley lf, 3. Andrew McCutchen cf, 4. Garrett Jones 1b, 5. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 6. Jose Tabata rf, 7. Clint Barmes ss, 8. Rod Barajas c, 9. Wandy Rodriguez lhp (10-13, 3.71)

Reds: (84-57): 1. Brandon Phillips 2b, 2. Chris Heisey cf, 3. Joey Votto 1b, 4. Ryan Ludwick lf, 5. Jay Bruce rf, 6. Todd Frazier 3b, 7. Dioner Navarro c, 8. Wilson Valdez ss, 9. Mat Latos rhp (12-4, 3.69)

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Qualls comes off DL

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Reliever Chad Qualls today was activated from the disabled list. He’d been out due to left toe irritation. … 2B Neil Walker will take some swings left-handed to test his sore lower back.

»»» Last night, Indy lost to Charlotte, 6-4, and was eliminated from the Triple-A International League playoffs. The Indians dropped the best-of-five series, 3-1.

»»» Garrett Jones has hit 43 home runs at PNC Park, which puts him fourth on the Pirates’ all-time list behind Jason Bay (61), Craig Wilson (47) and Brian Giles (45).

Game 139: Cubs @ Pirates, 1:35 p.m. ET

Cubs (53-86): 1. Joe Mather cf, 2. Darwin Barney 2b, 3. Anthony Rizzo 1b, 4. Alfonso Soriano lf, 5. Starlin Castro ss, 6. Josh Vitters 3b, 7. Dave Sappelt rf, 8. Anthony Recker c, 9. Chris Rusin lhp (0-2, 9.00)

Pirates (72-66): 1. Brock Holt 2b, 2. Starling Marte lf, 3. Andrew McCutchen cf, 4. Garrett Jones rf, 5. Gaby Sanchez 1b, 6. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 7. Michael McKenry c, 8. Clint Barmes ss, 9. Jeff Locke lhp (0-1, 4.82)

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Power outage

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The Pirates hit three homers Sunday against the Brewers at Miller Park, which ended a binge of eight homers in a five-game span. However, they have not gone deep through the first four games of this homestand.

»»» Andrew McCutchen was among nine All-Stars featured in a video aired Friday during the “Stand Up to Cancer” telethon.

»»» Cubs C Steve Clevenger will not play tonight in order to serve a one-game suspension for his role in a brawl in the game Thursday against the Washington Nationals.

Game 138: Cubs @ Pirates, 7:05 p.m. ET

Cubs (52-86): 1. David DeJesus rf, 2. Luis Valbuena 3b, 3. Anthony Rizzo 1b, 4. Alfonso Soriano lf, 5. Starlin Castro ss, 6. Wellington Castillo c, 7. Darwin Barney 2b, 8. Jeff Samardzija rhp (8-13, 3.91), 9. Tony Campana cf.

Pirates (72-65): 1. Brock Holt 2b, 2. Starling Marte lf, 3. Andrew McCutchen cf, 4. Garrett Jones 1b, 5. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 6. Alex Presley lf, 7. Clint Barmes ss, 8. Rod Barajas c, 9. James McDonald rhp (12-7, 3.90)

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Marte begins rehab

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OF Starling Marte (strained oblique) will play his first rehab game tonight with short-season A State College. Wednesday, Marte will transfer to Triple-A Indy to continue his rehab stint.

»»» Pedro Alvarez was named NL player of the week for the second time in his career. In six games last week, Alvarez hit four home runs and batted .458 (11 for 24). His 1.042 slugging percentage last week was tops in the league.

»»» The Pirates signed INF Jordan Steranka, their 21st-round draft pick this year. Steranka, a Mt. Lebanon High grad, was a .337 career hitter at Penn State, where he ranks second in school histiory with 292 hits over four seasons. Last season, he led the Nittany Lions in batting average, doubles, slugging percentage and total bases.

Game 135: Astros @ Pirates, 7:05 p.m. ET

Astros (42-93): 1. Jose Altuve 2b, 2. Tyler Greene ss, 3 Brett Wallace 1b, 4. Justin Maxwell cf, 5., Jason Castro c, 6. Matt Downs rf, 7. Jimmy Paredes lf, 8. Brandon Laird 3b, 9. Jordan Lyles rhp (3-10, 5.46)

Pirates (70-64): 1. Brock Holt 2b, 2. Travis Snider rf, 3. Andrew McCutchen cf, 4. Garrett Jones rf, 5. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 6. Michael McKenry c, 7. Alex Presley lf, 8. Clint Barmes ss, 9. Wandy Rodriguez lhp (9-13, 3.86)

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Holt set for first start in majors

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MILWAUKEE — A day after appearing in his first big league game, Brock Holt today will make his first start. He’s batting leadoff and playing second base. “I’ve always tried to get a player who comes up in a game sooner than later,” manager Clint Hurdle said. Last night, Holt drew a leadoff, four-pitch walk and scored the tying run in the eighth inning. Holt’s success in the minors shows he has a fine eye at the plate, but last night was a different story. “He was taking from the start,” Hurdle revealed, grinning. Brewers reliever Jim Henderson never threw a strike, so Holt took the free base.

»»» Reliever Chad Qualls (toe) is on his way to Indy to begin a rehab assignment. OF Starling Marte (strained oblique) will try running the bases Tuesday and might — Hurdle stressed that it still only is a possibility at this point — begin his rehab on Wednesday.

»»» If James McDonald wins today, the Pirates will have two 13-game winners for the first time since 1999, when Todd Ritchie went 15-9 and Jason Schmidt went 13-11.

Game 133: Pirates @ Brewers, 2:20 p.m. ET

Pirates (70-62): 1. Brock Holt 2b, 2. Jose Tabata lf, 3. Andrew McCutchen cf, 4. Garrett Jones rf, 5. Gaby Sanchez 1b, 6. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 7. Michael McKenry c, 8. Josh Harrison ss, 9. James McDonald rhp (12-6, 3.57)

Brewers (64-68): 1. Norichika Aoki rf, 2. Rickie Weeks 2b, 3. Ryan Braun lf, 4. Aramis Ramirez 3b, 5. Corey Hart 1b, 6. Martin Maldonado c, 7. Carlos Gomez cf, 8. Jeff Bianchi ss, 9. Yovani Gallardo rhp (14-8, 3.52)

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Locke moves into rotation

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MILWAUKEE — The front office wants to see LHP Jeff Locke pitch, so the rookie has moved into the Pirates’ starting rotation, presumably for the rest of the regular season. Locke was among five players brought up today from the minor. “The first thing Clint (Hurdle) said to me today was, ‘You’re defnitely going to be here a lot longer than you were the last time,’ ” Locke said. “This is where you want to be, so I’m happy to be back. Things have been going good at Triple-A, so I’m trying to carry that through here.”

RHP Jeff Karstens (strained hip flexor) will skip at least one start and will be replaced by Kevin Correia. The rotation for the series next week against the Astros: Monday is Locke, Tuesday is Wandy Rodriguez, Thursday is Correia. “Hopefully, I’ll only have to miss one start,” Karstens said. “I want to get back and help us get to the playoffs.” The shame of it is, Karstens was finally back to his best form before being felled by the injury. If/when Karstens is able to return, look for Correia to go back to the bullpen.

»»» Although he’s barely gotten his feet wet at Triple-A Indianapolis, maybe it’s not a huge surprise INF Brock Holt was among today’s callups. Holt played in just 24 games at Indy, but he wowed Pirates brass by batting .432 with a 1.013 OPS. In 102 games at Double-A Altoona, Holt hit .322 with a .821 OPS. “Holt has played well all year,” assistant GM Kyle Stark said. “He’s embraced the type of player he needs to be and has played well on both sides of the ball. He probably profiles better (long-term) at second base, but he’s shown the ability to play shortstop.” Still, there is no guarantee Holt will remain with the Pirates through the end of the season. If 2B Neil Walker makes a quick return from lower back tightness, Holt could be sent back down to help Indy in the playoffs. “Walker’s injury definitely played a role (in Holt’s callup) and will probably play a role in how long he’s up there,” Stark said.

»»» RHP Chris Leroux was added to the 40-man and called up today. Seven of his 21 outings at Indy were starts; overall, he went 4-0 with a 3.11 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP. “Leroux will most likely pitch out of the bullpen (for the Pirates) in a variety of roles, although he does offer us some flexibility,” Stark said. The Pirates will have some holes to fill in the starting rotation next year — Erik Bedard is gone and it’s uncertain whether Karstens will be brought back. Would Leroux have a chance to start? “Opportunity and what he does with it will dictate his role, both now and in the future,” Stark said. “His flexibility offers us some different alternatives.”

»»» C Eric Fryer and LHP Justin Wilson also were called up today.

»»» Indy made a few roster additions today, as well. C Miguel Perez and RHP Logan Kensing were activated off the DL, and RHP Gerrit Cole and LHP Kris Johnson were promoted from Double-A Altoona. For those who are into this kinda thing, Cole will wear No. 35 for Indy.

»»» RHP Dovydas Neverauskas and RHP Bryton Trepagnier went promoted from rookie level Bradenton to short-season A State College. Neverauskas is the first Lithuanian player in Spikes history. RHP Clay Holmes and RHP Adrian Sampson were transferred to Bradenton’s roster, but it’s a paper move; Bradenton wraps up its season Sunday.

Game 132: Pirates @ Brewers, 7:05 p.m. ET

Pirates (70-61): 1. Alex Presley lf, 2. Travis Snider rf, 3. Andrew McCutchen cf, 4. Garrett Jones rf, 5. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 6. Josh Harrison 2b, 7. Rod Barajas c, 8. Clint Barmes ss, 9. A.J. Burnett rhp (15-5, 3.67)

Brewers (63-68): 1. Nyjer Morgan rf, 2. Rickie Weeks 2b, 3. Ryan Braun lf, 4. Aramis Ramirez 3b, 5. Corey Hart 1b, 6. Jonathan Lucroy c, 7. Carlos Gomez cf, 8. Jean Segura ss, 9. Marco Estrada rhp (2-5, 4.02)

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