Mientkiewicz out with hip injury


Doug Mientkiewicz sustained a hip flexor injury last night while trying to make a diving stop at third base. Manager John Russell said Mientkiewiz is day to day.

Lineups for today’s game:

BREWERS — Weeks 2B, Counsell SS, Braun LF, Fielder 1B, Hart RF, Kapler CF, Hall 3B, Kendall C, Sabathia (8-0, 1.59) LHP

PIRATES — Wilson SS, Sanchez 2B, McLouth CF, Michaels LF, Andy LaRoche 3B, Moss RF, Gomez 1B, Chavez C, Karstens (2-3, 3.48) RHP


Moss in the 2 spot


Here’s a new twist to the lineup: Brandon Moss in the No. 2 spot.

“It just seemed like a nice fit,” manager John Russell said this afternoon. “I don’t know if he’s (always) a No. 2 hitter for us, but it seemed like a good fit for tonight.”

Russell wanted to stack some left-handed bats at the top of the order against Brewers righty Jeff Suppan. “Maybe we can get Paul (Maholm) some early runs,” Russell said.

Moss becomes the 10th Pirate to bat second this season. The most frequent choice, Freddy Sanchez (59 games) is not in the lineup today.

Lineups for today’s game:

BREWERS — Weeks 2B, Hardy SS, Braun LF, Fielder 1B, Hart RF, Cameron CF, Hall 3B, Kendall C, Suppan (9-7, 4.58) RHP

PIRATES — Morgan RF, Moss LF, McLouth CF, Doumit C, Adam LaRoche 1B, Mientkiewicz 3B, Rivas 2B, Wilson SS, Maholm (8-7, 3.62) LHP


Brewers-Pirates starting lineups


Left-hander Tom Gorzelanny (6-8, 6.82), making his second start since being recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis, will take the mound against the Milwaukee Brewers at 7:05 tonight at PNC Park, as the Pirates try to snap a season-long seven-game losing streak.

The Pirates are 1-8 against the Brewers this season, including a three-game sweep in Milwaukee last week. Andy LaRoche, stuck in an 0-for-27 skid, will start at third base for the Pirates. Dave Bush (8-9, 4.24) will start for the Brewers, who have won 15 of their past 21 road games and lead the Cardinals by 3.5 games in the NL wild card chase.

Starting lineups

Brewers – Rickie Weeks 2B, J.J. Hardy SS, Ryan Braun LF, Prince Fielder 1B, Corey Hart RF, Mike Cameron CF, Bill Hall 3B, Jason Kendall C, Dave Bush RHP

Pirates – Nyjer Morgan RF, Nate McLouth CF, Ryan Doumit C, Adam LaRoche 1B, Brandon Moss LF, Freddy Sanchez 2B, Andy LaRoche 3B, Jack Wilson SS, Tom Gorzelanny LHP


Barthmaier set for Arizona Fall League


The Pirates have revealed six of the seven players they will send to the in the Arizona Fall League.

The list of players going to the Scottsdale Scorpions consists of right-handed pitchers Jimmy Barthmaier, Jared Hughes, Jeff Sues and Mike Crotta, catcher Steve Lerud and infielder Shelby Ford. There also is one outfielder spot which is yet to be filled.

Crotta, who is pitching for high-A Lynchburg, is the Pirates’ one Class A exemption. That spot would have gone to Pedro Alvarez, but that plan was nixed by the ongoing battle over his contract — the Pirates today asked MLB to put Alvarez on the restricted list because he has refused to sign the paperwork.

Barthmaier is at Triple-A Indianapolis. The five other players are playing for Double-A Altoona. Indy pitching coach Ray Searage also will be with Scottsdale.


Moss, LaRoche going in different directions


One arrived from Boston. The other came from Los Angeles. They converged in Pittsburgh as two highly-regarded prospects.

But, lately, they have been headed in opposite directions.

Left fielder Brandon Moss and third baseman Andy LaRoche – the two position players acquired in the Jason Bay deal – are dealing differently with their transition from big-market back-ups into everyday players with the Pirates.

Moss fought past a slow start to hit .368 with two home runs in his past five games entering Tuesday night’s action.

LaRoche is stuck in an 0-for-23 slump and is batting .127 (8 for 63) in 19 games since arriving from the Dodgers. He got benched in favor of Doug Mientkiewicz on Tuesday. LaRoche also has committed six errors at third base.

“It’s not the first time I’ve been in a slump and struggled at the plate,” LaRoche said. “You’ve got to fight through it.”

One positive sign – if it’s possible to find a bright spot in an 0-for-23 skid – is that LaRoche didn’t strike out during the first 19 at-bats of the slump. He managed to put 19 balls in play, but always ended with a zero in the hit column.

“It was frustrating,” he said. “I could have easily had six or seven hits. I see these guys getting these broken-bat hits. ‘C’mon, let me get one of those.’ ”

Pirates manager John Russell looks more at the player who was rated the game’s 14th-best prospect by Baseball Prospectus last season, and the Dodgers’ No. 2 prospect.

“Everything about Andy is encouraging,” Russell said. “I know he’s not getting hits and people equate success with results. We’re not looking at it like that. We look at what he brings. He can hit the ball out of the park. He’s got an exceptional arm. He’s got a good glove. He needs to work on his footwork.

“He’s a young player that’s going through some adjustments. He’s getting used to being out there every day. But as an evaluator, you look at what he brings, and he’s got the tools you are looking for.”

Russell said Xavier Nady showed a lot of the same traits during his woeful spring training and ended up being one of the Pirates’ top hitters before being traded to the Yankees.

“(Nady) was really struggling,” Russell said. “He turned into a very dominant hitter. I see a lot of the same things in Andy. It’s a process. He’s a young player. But the tools are there. It’s up to us to get them out.”

LaRoche, 24, has been working with hitting coach Don Long on his swing. The priority is keeping his head still. LaRoche went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts against the Cubs on Monday night, but said he is more comfortable.

“I felt a lot more relaxed,” he said. “Inside, I know it’s coming. It’s getting pretty close. When I first started here, upper-body and lower-body weren’t working together. The timing was off. My head was moving too much. We got my lower-body figured out.”

While LaRoche is struggling, Moss is starting to show why he was the MVP at Triple-A Pawtucket last year. The former Boston Red Sox farmhand went 2 for 3 with a deep home run to right and a double on Monday night. He singled off Carlos Zambrano in the first inning on Tuesday. It is a marked turnaround from Moss’ first week in the NL. In his first six games with the Pirates, he went 5 for 20 with 11 strikeouts. He was rusty after missing five weeks earlier this season following an appendectomy.

“I’m just starting to get my timing going and get my approach back and starting to feel good at the plate,” he said.

Moss has shown toughness and resiliency. He missed only two games after suffering a painful ankle sprain 10 days ago.

“We like the way he’s swinging the bat,” Russell said. “He’s starting to see the ball better. He’s getting himself in better position. He’s taken advantage of some balls up in the zone and he’s hit them hard.”

–John Grupp


Pirates brace for Zambrano


Slumping Andy LaRoche is out of the lineup for tonight’s game against the Cubs, as the Pirates try to snap a five-game losing streak at 7:05 p.m. at PNC Park. Doug Mientkiewicz will start at third in place of LaRoche, who is hitless in his past 23 at-bats. Brandon Moss will make his first start in right field since his first day with the Pirates on Aug. 1. Right-hander Ian Snell (5-10, 5.60 ERA), coming off one of his best starts of the season, will start for the Pirates against Carlos Zambrano (13-5, 3.29 ERA).

Starting lineups

Cubs – Alfonso Soriano LF, Ryan Theriot SS, Derrek Lee 1B, Aramis Ramirez 3B, Jim Edmonds CF, Ed DeRosa 2B, Kosuke Fukodome RF, Geovany Soto C, Carlos Zambrano RHP

Pirates – Nyjer Morgan LF, Nate McLouth CF, Ryan Doumit C, Adam LaRoche 1B, Brandon Moss RF, Doug Mientkiewicz 3B, Freddy Sanchez 2B, Jack Wilson SS, Ian Snell RHP

– John Grupp


McLouth is back in lineup


Cubs (80-50) vs. Pirates (57-73)

Center fielder Nate McLouth, who has missed his past five starts with a stomach virus, is back in the starting lineup for tonight’s 7:05 p.m. game against the first-place Cubs at PNC Park. Jeff Karstens (2-2, 2.25 ERA) will start for the Pirates, who have lost four in a row and eight out of their past 10 games. Left-handerTed Lilly (12-7, 4.25) will start for the Cubs, who have won 11 of their 15 games against the Pirates this season.

Cubs – Alfonso Soriano LF, Ryan Theriot SS, Derrek Lee 1B, Aramis Ramirez 3B, Jim Edmonds CF, Ed DeRosa 2B, Kosuke Fukodome RF, Geovany Soto C, LHP Ted Lilly Pirates — Nate McLouth CF, Freddy Sanchez 2B, Ryan Doumit C, Adam LaRoche 1B, Jason Michaels RF, Brandon Moss LF, Andy LaRoche 3B, Jack Wilson SS, RHP Jeff Karstens.


Russell, LaRoche booted


MILWAUKEE — Pirates manager John Russell was ejected before the top of the sixth inning of today’s game against the Brewers.

Russell was angry after home plate umpire Bob Davidson tossed Adam LaRoche as LaRoche was walking off the field between innings. Russell and Davidson shouted at each other for a minute or so, then Russell was tossed.

In the fifth, LaRoche questioned Davidson after being called out on a high strike. As he jogged from first base to the dugout, LaRoche appeared to mutter something in Davidson’s direction.

LaRoche got a quick hook, which sparked Russell’s outrage. It was Russell’s first ejection.


McLouth sits again


MILWAUKEE — Center fielder Nate McLouth (stomach virus) feels better today — he arrived early at Miller Park on the team bus and will be in uniform during the game — but is sitting out for the fifth day in a row.

“It looks like he’s back among the living again,” manager John Russell joked. Don’t expect to see McLouth back in the lineup until Tuesday.

Catcher Ryan Doumit (dehydration) is playing. “He’s not 100 percent, but he’s good enough to play,” Russell said.

Lineups for today’s game:

PIRATES — Morgan CF, Wilson SS, Doumit C, Adam LaRoche 1B, Michaels RF, Moss LF, Gomez 3B, Rivas 2B, Chavez C, Maholm (8-7, 3.64) LHP

BREWERS — Weeks 2B, Hardy SS, Braun LF, Fielder 1B, Hart RF, Cameron CF, Hall 3B, Kendall C, Sabathia (8-0, 1.60) LHP


Indians, Tigers, Royals coming in 2009


MILWAUKEE — If Frank Coonelly had his way, the Pirates and Cleveland Indians would meet every season.

The teams will clash June 23-25, 2009 at PNC Park, but it’s not because Major League Baseball has given in to the Pirates team president’s request.

“We’ve let the commissioner’s office know it’s a great rivalry and the Indians should be designated our ‘natural rival’ for interleague play,” Coonelly said Sunday. “But I don’t believe our request is the reason for (the 2009 series). It’s because we’re playing the American League Central.”

MLB has tagged the Cincinnati Reds as the Indians’ rival, meaning the teams face off every year. The Pirates do not have an interleague rival … but Coonelly hasn’t given up.

“We’re excited about having the Indians come to PNC Park next year,” Coonelly said. “It will generate a lot of excitement and high attendance for us, and that we will continue to provide that information to the commissioner’s office.”

In June, there was a large turnout of Pirates fans for the interleague series at Camden Yards in Baltimore. However, the Orioles already are matched up as rivals for the Washington Nationals.

The Pirates will play five interleague series in 2009 — at home against the Indians, Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals, and on the road against the Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins.