Post-game: Moskos looks like he’s been there before in his major league debut

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As left-hander Daniel Moskos said on Saturday afternoon, you only get to make one major league debut. He made his memorable later that night in a clean eighth inning against the Colorado Rockies.

Afterward, the smile on Moskos’ face could not have been any bigger.

“It was awesome, it was everything I thought it would be,” Moskos said. “I’m really glad I got a chance to get out there and get it under my belt. It was just awesome.”

Moskos was recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis to replace Evan Meek, who went on the 15-day disabled list with right shoulder tendinitis and will be returning to Pittsburgh to see Dr. Patrick DeMeo.

The 25-year-old lefty faced Carlos Gonzalez first and got ahead, 0-1, on a 91 mile-per-hour fastball. He threw four sliders in a row and Gonzalez popped out to short on the fourth one. He got ahead of Jose Lopez with another fastball, this one at 90 miles per hour, then threw a change-up before getting Lopez to ground out on another 90 mph fastball. And he wrapped it all up by getting ahead one more time to Seth Smith, who swung and missed at a slider, then saw a fastball, slider and another fastball before hitting a flyball to Garrett Jones.

“It’s how you picture it, you want it to be a 1-2-3 clean inning, get in and get out,” Moskos said. “(Getting ahead of batters) has been a big key to my success, it’s something I worked really hard on in the offseason was getting ahead. Last year when I struggled it was with getting ahead of hitters, and then I really struggled.”

• Jose Tabata left the game after the top of the first inning with a tight right hamstring. He said he felt it when he stepped on the bag at first base running out a ground ball, and although he doesn’t know how he’ll feel tomorrow, it isn’t too bad. Manager Clint Hurdle said they plan to give Tabata a couple days and will navigate a man short then take it from there.

• In addition to generating the Pirates’ only run of the evening, Andrew McCutchen McCutchen made a spectacular catch sliding across his back to end the fifth and then an impressive leaping catch in the bottom of the seventh.

• The Pirates finish April 12-15, compared to their 10-13 mark last April.

• Tonight was Neil Walker’s fifth multi-hit game over his last seven games. He was 0 for 4 in the first game against the Rockies on Friday night.

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Post game, from (lightly) snowy Colorado

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It was supposed to be cold and snow during the Pirates’ three-game series in Colorado, but it wasn’t supposed to start until tomorrow.

No such luck. There was a little rain/snow mix early in the game but by the eighth inning it was flurrying. Not to say it was threatening to accumulate any, but still. By the ninth inning the temperature was 45 degrees with a wind chill of 30.

Now onto Ronny Cedeno. The embattled shortstop was back in the game for the first time since Monday, scratched in each of the last three games for newcomer Brandon Wood. Before that, he was hitless in his last three games, going 0 for 8 in three-plus games before hitting a triple – the first one for the Pirates this year – and driving in Pedro Alvarez to make it 3-0. The Pirates were the only team left in the majors without a triple.

“What a game Ronny Cedeno had. Big time,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “It shows you what he’s capable of doing. We’ve just got to continue to work with Ronny and the rest of our guys on consistency. We’ve got a few guys who’ve fallen into that category. But he got the opportunity to get back out there today, first two at-bats weren’t what he wanted (a ground-out and a strikeout) then he squares the ball up big time.”

Cedeno also made some good plays on defense, including one in the ninth inning where, on a hit by Troy Tulowitzki after Carlos Gonzalez got on base with a bunt single, Cedeno calmly flipped the ball to second base to get the force out instead of trying to create something extra.

“And he made a backhand play in the first inning as good as you’re going to see,” Hurdle said.

• One note about Rockies’ starter Jhouyls Chacin: Tonight was the first time this season that he didn’t walk a batter. He struck out eight, giving up three runs on six hits. The eight strikeouts were the most since he also had eight on Sept. 24, 2010, versus San Francisco.

• The Rockies did not move a runner past second base all night.

• The Pirates are now 4-3 in their last seven games at Coors Field. The last time they shut the Rockies out was July 24, 2005, at PNC Park.

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Pregame: Cedeno still the starter, but …

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Manager Clint Hurdle stressed this morning that Brandon Wood has not usurped Ronny Cedeno as the starting shortstop. “No,” Hurdle said emphatically. “He’s played three games. I’m just riding the hot hand right now.”

Wood will make his fourth straight start (one at third base, followed by three at short) this afternoon in the finale against the Giants. In his debut Monday, Wood smacked a two-run double. Last night, he went 1 for 2 with a walk.

»»» In case you missed it last night, outfielder John Bowker was designated for assignment to clear a roster spot for waiver wire pickup  Xavier Paul. Bowker got caught in a logjam on the depth chart and was expendable. “He was my third left fielder, my third right fielder, my third first baseman,” Hurdle said.

»»» Paul took the locker which previously was used by Kevin Correia, who moved across the clubhouse and is in between Jeff Karstens and Ross Ohlendorf. Paul was assigned No. 38, which was worn by Chris Leroux, Erik Kratz and Craig Hansen after Jason Bay was traded in 2008.

»»» Hurdle said the addition of Paul was in part sparked because “I wanted to restructure the bench.” Paul adds some much-needed speed and also is experienced in center field, which means Jose Tabata won’t be taxed when Andrew McCutchen needs a day off.

»»» Paul was claimed off waivers after being DFA’d by the Dodgers. “The past few days have been the longest week of my life,” Paul said. “I had that feeling of not knowing what to expect. But at the end, there was a feeling of excitement. I think it’s going to be fun to play here.” Paul is familiar with James McDonald (a former LA teammate) and has played against Wood since rookie ball.

Paul, 26, broke into the majors as a bench player, so he’s familiar with that role. “I played behind a lot of great players — Juan Pierre, Garrett Anderson, Manny Ramirez, Casey Blake. A lot of times, you learn more sitting on the bench than you do out on the field. I picked those guys’ brains a lot. Maybe some of these guys here who are younger than me, maybe we can help each other. Maybe they’ll ask me a few questions: ‘How was Manny when he did this?’ or ‘How was Pierre when he did that with his baserunning?’ Maybe I can bring a little positive attitude, baserunning, defense, hit a little bit. Whatever role they want me to play, that’s what I’m here to do.”

»»» The Dodgers’ ownership situation may seem chaotic from afar, but Paul said it is not affecting the players in LA. “Being in that clubhouse, from a player’s perspective, you’d never know that ownership stuff is going on,” Paul said. “I think you can tell from the way (Matt) Kemp and (Andre) Ethier are tearing it up. It’s not affecting them one way or the other. Of course, you hear about it all the time, but I don’t think it’s affecting anybody’s play. They’re just trying to win ballgames.”

»»» In nine day games so far this season, Neil Walker is batting .371 with two homers and eight RBI. McCutchen has hit .367 with two homers and six RBI in the eight day games in which he’s played.

Lineups for this afternoon’s game:

Giants (11-12) – 1. Aaron Rowand cf, 2. Emmanuel Burriss 2b, 3. Aubrey Huff 1b, 4. Pablo Sandoval 3b, 5. Pat Burrell lf, 6. Cody Ross lf, 7. Mike Fontenot ss, 8. Eli Whiteside c, 9. Ryan Vogelsong rhp (0-0, 0.00)

Pirates (11-13) – 1. Andrew McCutchen cf, 2. Jose Tabata lf, 3. Lyle Overbay 1b, 4. Neil Walker 2b, 5. Garrett Jones rf, 6. Ryan Doumit c, 7. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 8. Brandon Wood ss, 9. Jeff Karstens rhp (2-0, 3.94)

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Pregame: Cedeno benched

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Ronny Cedeno is benched again tonight, so Brandon Wood will start at shortstop for the second game in a row.

“It’s a manger’s decision,” skipper Clint Hurdle said this afternoon after posting the lineup. “I’ll leave it at that.”

Last night, Cedeno went into the game in the seventh inning as a pinch-runner and was caught stealing. He stayed in the game at short, replacing Wood. In the ninth, Cedeno hit a bouncer down the third base line — he thought the ball was foul, and stopped running. Third baseman Pablo Sandoval fielded the ball and threw out Cedeno to end the inning.

“I don’t understand (why Cedeno stopped),” Hurdle said. “I talked to Ronny about it. He just needs to run. It’s late in the game, you’ve got to run the ball out. You need to play the game, not umpire. Ronny understands that he made a bad decision.”

»»» Hurdle is not pushing the panic button — yet — with right-hander James McDonald. “We’re just going to continue to give him the ball and see where he can take it,” Hurdle said. “I haven’t put a timetable on it or talked to Ray (Searage, pitching coach) about he needs to do this or that. But we have talked about what he needs to do is pound the bottom of the strike zone and sharpen up his secondary pitches.”

»»» Xavier Paul will get some playing time at all thee outfield spots — including center — over the course of the season. Right now, Jose Tabata is Andrew McCutchen’s backup in center. “He’s better suited to the corners, but he’s played center field,” Hurdle said. “He gives us an option off the bench as a bat. He gives us an option off the bench to run, steal a base. As the season goes on, he can play center field. There’ll be some wear and tear on Jose, going from left to center. We’re looking for a better fit in center field.”

»»» Hurdle said Lyle Overbay is a healthy scratch tonight as a way to get Steve Pearce some playing time at first base.

»»» Joel Hanrahan did some community service work this morning. He helped students from Shaler Area and Fox Chapel Area highs clean the Three Rivers Heritage Trail.

Lineups for tonight’s game:

Giants (1-11) – 1. Aaron Rowand cf, 2. Freddy Sanchez 2b, 3. Aubrey Huff 1b, 4. Buster Posey c, 5. Pablo Sandoval 3b, 6. Pat Burrell lf, 7. Cody Ross lf, 8. Miguel Tejada ss, 9. Madison Bumgarner lhp (0-3, 7.79)

Pirates (10-13) – 1. Andrew McCutchen cf, 2. Jose Tabata lf, 3. Matt Diaz rf, 4. Neil Walker 2b, 5. Steve Pearce 1b, 6. Chris Snyder c, 7. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 8. Brandon Wood ss, 9. James McDonald rhp (0-2, 10.13)

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Pregame: Xavier Paul claimed

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paul2The Pirates claimed outfielder Xavier Paul off waivers from the Dodgers. To make room on the 40-man roster, left-hander Scott Olsen was transferred from the 15- to the 60-day disabled list. Olsen has been out since straining his hamstring early in spring training.

Once Paul reports, the Pirates will have to make another move to get him on the active roster. That would seem to indicate the departure of either Steve Pearce or John Bowker.

Paul, 26, has had success at the plate in the minors, but has hit .233 with no homers and 12 RBI in 62 games in the majors. This year, he went 3 for 11 in seven games before being designated for assignment. Paul has good speed, but also strikes out a lot (33 Ks in 146 at-bats).

»»» Pirates leadoff hitters Jose Tabata and Andrew McCutchen have a combined .406 on-base percentage, which is second-best in the NL.

»»» Joel Hanrahan notched his sixth save last night. The last Pirates closer to save more than six games in April was Salomon Torres, who got eight in 2007.

»»» Of the past 52 runs allowed by the Pirates, 26 have scored via 14 home runs.

»»» Going into tonight’s game, the Pirates’ bullpen ranks fourth in the majors with a 2.45 ERA.

Lineups for tonight’s game:

Giants (10-11) – 1. Aaron Rowand cf, 2. Freddy Sanchez 2b, 3. Aubrey Huff 1b, 4. Buster Posey c, 5. Pablo Sandoval 3b, 6. Pat Burrell lf, 7. Cody Ross lf, 8. Miguel Tejada ss, 9. Matt Cain rhp (2-1, 3.42)

Pirates (10-12) – 1. Andrew McCutchen cf, 2. Matt Diaz lf, 3. Lyle Overbay 1b, 4. Neil Walker 2b, 5. Garrett Jones rf, 6. Ryan Doumit c, 7. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 8. Brandon Wood ss, 9. Charlie Morton rhp (2-1, 3.33)

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Taillon: And so it begins

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Jameson Taillon will make his professional debut on Wednesday night with the low-A West Virginia Power. The Pirates’ top pick in 2010 – second overall – joined the team on Sunday after staying in Florida for extended spring training.

The Power are in the midst of a nine-game homestand, including five against the Hagerstown Sun, affiliates of the Nationals, and the current team of No. 1 overall pick of last year’s draft, Bryce Harper.

Speaking of Harper, the Nationals have set guidelines for the media’s interaction with their 18-year-old prospect. He will only be available after games that he factors in, and he will not be available for one-on-one interviews “at any point” while the team is in Charleston.

Now, here’s some follow-up from tonight’s win over the Nationals.

= Clint Hurdle on infielder Brandon Wood’s debut: “He looked pretty comfortable, especially the first swing he put on the ball and drove it to right center. Didn’t quite flush it but put a good swing on it. He caught the next one right on the barrel so, yeah. (Defensively) he didn’t have that many balls but the one he had, he put away. … He’s got some time to write his own story here and get back on track the way he feels he’s capable of doing and our people think he’s going and I think he’s capable of doing.”

= First baseman Steve Pearce came out of the game in the seventh inning and was replaced by Lyle Overbay, who’d been given the night off to start the game. Hurdle said it was simply a defensive switch.

= Paul Maholm has been plagued by some tough early innings said they’ll “tweak it” and see if there’s something he can do to come in and make sure the offense has a chance to put the Pirates on the board first. He blanked the Cubs in the first inning in his first start, but gave up two runs in the first inning in each of his next two starts and then in his fourth start the Florida Marlins scored two in the second inning. The Nationals scored their only two runs in the first inning tonight.

= Maholm responded well to the rain delay tonight. It was only 21 minutes, but he came back and sat the Nationals 1-2-3 in each of the next three innings with three strikeouts, two fly-outs, two line-outs and two ground-outs. Hurdle said if they’d had to wait a little longer they probably would have taken Maholm in the tunnel and had him throw an inning. “You can lose an inning as far as how deep he can go in the game,” Hurdle said. “But just to keep him working, get the blood flowing rather then sit and freeze for an hour and try to come back. There is a time we have in mind that once it gets past a certain time we’re not going to bring him back.”

= Maholm said he watched part of the Penguins game when the rain delay happened, then changed into dry clothes, threw a little in the cage then came back and watched Wood hit the double to put them ahead.

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Postgame: Pitching problems

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MIAMI — It was an awful three-game series for the starting rotation. Paul Maholm (3 2/3 innings), Charlie Morton (five) and James McDonald (three) combined for a 15.43 ERA against the Marlins.

“We don’t have enough quality in our pitches in the last three games,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “They’re missing location. James threw a high fastball over home plate with the bases loaded. How did the guys get on base? By walks. We’re missing zones. We’re not getting the balls where (the catcher is) set up. We’re missing mid-thigh and up, over the plate in the strike zone.”

»»» A lot of Florida’s hot hitting in the series came from the bottom of the order — pitchers or, as was the case tonight, the guys hitting sixth, seventh and eighth.

“Where we’re getting hurt … you’d like to think that doesn’t happen,” Hurdle said. “But if you pay attention to every game from this point on, you’ll see the bottom of the order can hurt people. Those guys are down there for a reason, but also a swinging bat’s a dangerous bat. When pitches are not located where they’re supposed to be, guys hit ‘em.”

»»» Right-hander Kevin Hart (shoulder) came over from Bradenton to work out with the Pirates for the entire series in Miami. After the game, he dressed, packed and flew to … Pittsburgh. “I’m going to work there for a few days,” he said.

Interesting.

With so much uneven play lately, I kind of have the feeling there could be a change or two — a callup, a trade, something — in the next few days.

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Pregame: McCutchen rejoins team

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Grilled marlin is not on the menu tonight, but this is hanging over the media food room at Sun Life Stadium.
Grilled marlin is not on the menu tonight, but this is hanging over the media food room at Sun Life Stadium.

MIAMI — Andrew McCutchen is back in uniform and will play tonight against the Marlins. Wednesday, McCutchen went home to be with his father, Lorenzo, who is hospitalized.

“I had to go check up on him and my family,” McCutchen said. “It was good to see him. He’s fine now, my family’ fine. But I had to take that day off to make sure everything is OK.”

McCutchen first heard about his father on Tuesday.

“It’s been on my mind a little bit,” McCutchen said. “I’ve been thinking about him. I thought it would be better for me to see him physically to make him feel a little better, and I was able to do that.”

Once it was clear everything was OK, the elder McCutchen urged his son to get back to work.

“He kicked me out, basically,” McCutchen said, grinning. “He was excited to see me. When my mom asked if I’d be there for a while, my dad looked and shook his head and told me, ‘Leave.’ It’s good to be back.”

Manager Clint Hurdle did not hesitate to put McCutchen back into the lineup in his usual leadoff spot.

“It’s good to have him back and he’s back for good reasons,” Hurdle said.

The Pirates have lost 6-0 the past two nights. McCutchen listened to last night’s game on the radio as he drove back to Miami.

“Man, I wanted to be there,” McCutchen said. “I said, if they tie this up, I hope I can get there on time (to play). I wanted to get back.”

I and other Pirates writers got a lot of emails and other messages from Pirates fans who wanted to wish McCutchen well. McCutchen also was contacted by former teammates who expressed support..

“It makes you feel good to know there are people out there who care,” McCutchen said.

»»» Hurdle held a closed-door meeting in his office with many of the position players. One topic was the disturbingly high number of strikeouts — 21 over the past two games, a total of 180 this season. Hurdle demanded the hitters make better in-game adjustments and, if necessary, change their two-strike approach.

»»» The Pirates are the only team in the majors that hasn’t hit a triple.

»»» Top prospect Jameson Taillon is in extended spring training, and soon will ship out to Low-A West Virginia for his highly anticipated pro debut. “We are still working through plans on when we would like to get him out of extended,” farm director Kyle Stark said today via email. The Pirates kept Taillon and fellow right-hander Stetson Allie in Bradenton, Fla., in order to better control their pitch counts this year.

Lineups for tonight’s game:

Pirates (7-9) – 1. Andrew McCutchen cf, 2. Jose Tabata cf, 3. Lyle Overbay 1b, 4. Neil Walker 2b, 5. Garrett Jones rf, 6. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 7. Chris Snyder c, 8. Josh Rodriguez ss, 9. James McDonald rhp (0-1, 7.47)

Marlins (9-6) – 1. Emilio Bonifacio lf, 2. Omar Infante 2b, 3. Hanley Ramirez ss, 4. Gabe Sanchez, 5. Greg Dobbs lf, 6. Mark Stanton rf, 7. Scott Cousins cf, 8. Brett Hayes c, 9. Chris Volstad rhp (0-1, 5.59)

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McCutchen out of lineup

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MIAMI — Andrew McCutchen has been granted a leave of absence from the Pirates to go home and deal with a personal matter. There is no timetable for when McCutchen will return.

“That’s really all we’re going to share right now, out of respect to his privacy,” manager Clint Hurdle said.

Tonight against the Marlins, Jose Tabata will replace McCutchen in center field. Matt Diaz will make his second start of the year in left.

“We played one game without Andrew and won at Wrigley,” Hurdle said. “That’s why you have 25 guys on the roster.”

McCutchen was scratched April 3 against the Cubs due to a sore neck. The Pirates won, 5-4. Tabata and Diaz went a combined 4 for 10 with two runs scored.

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Pregame: Morton and the sinker

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MIAMI — Charlie Morton’s strikeout-walk ratio has changed dramatically so far this season. That might be a red flag for problems down the road and it’s something to keep in mind when he pitches tonight against the Marlins.

In his last start, a five-hitter Friday against the Reds, Morton walked two and struck out three. Meh. But for the season, he’s walked 12 and struck out six. Uh-oh.

Two starts ago, Morton said he was unhappy about issuing five walks in seven innings and taking a no-decision against the Rockies. But after the Reds game, a complete-game win, he downplayed questions about the free passes.

“I wasn’t really worried about walks,” Morton said. “I’m thinking about getting deeper in games and helping my team win. It’s going to catch up to me eventually, wasting pitches and all that. It’s something I took note of and worked on, but it’s not something I’m overly concerned about.”

It’s not time to push the panic button, but …

Morton’s 0.50 ratio is radically different than what he did over his first three seasons in the majors — 1.17 in 2008, 1.55 in 2009 and 2.27 last year.

Since the start of spring training, Morton has been throwing his sinker like there’s no tomorrow. FanGraphs says Morton throws a fastball (both two- and four-seamers) 88.1 percent of the time, the most among any pitcher in the majors. According to PitchFX stats at brooksbaseball.net, Morton threw a whopping 91 sinkers out of 109 total pitches the other day against Cincy.

Can Charlie keep chuckin’ so many sinkers? Perhaps not. Eventually, hitters will adapt, just as they’ll adjust to how the see the ball coming from Morton’s new arm slot in his revamped delivery.

Morton’s turnaround has been one of the best storylines for the Pirates this year, but the story is hardly complete. He’ll need to continue to evolve as a pitcher for his sparkling run of success to go deep into the summer.

»»» Another interesting note on Morton: Among qualified starting pitchers, he ranks 31st in the majors with an average fastball velocity of 92.0 mph. Morton is tied with Fausto Carmona, Chris Carpenter and Max Scherzer.

Of those four, Morton by far throws the most fastballs. Scherzer throws the pitch 64.9 percent of the time, Carmona 61.0 percent and Carpenter 52.9 percent.

Comparing Morton to other Pirates starters: Paul Maholm (55.9 fastball percentage) averages 87.4 mph. Kevin Correia (48.8 percent) averages 89.4 mph. Ross Ohlendorf (70.6 percent) averages 92.1 mph. James McDonald (70.6 percent) averages 91.9 mph.

»»» Andrew McCutchen is not available tonight, so Jose Tabata will start in center field and Matt Diaz will be in left. More details about this after we chat with manager Clint Hurdle in a few minutes.

»»» Hurdle sometimes wears a protective sleeve on his right elbow, especially on days he throws batting practice. “I’ve thrown a lot of b.p. in my career and this is like a warm fuzzy — it just feels good,” Hurdle said, smiling.

»»» The Pirates signed right-handers Blaine Boyer and Brett Sinkbeil to minor league deals. Bullpen depth move.

Lineups for tonight’s game:

Pirates (8-9) – 1. Jose Tabata cf, 2. Matt Diaz lf, 3. Lyle Overbay 1b, 4. Neil Walker 2b, 5. Garrett Jones rf, 6. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 7. Chris Snyder c, 8. Ronny Cedeno ss, 9. Charlie Morton rhp (2-0, 1.64)

Marlins (9-6) – 1. Chris Coghlan cf, 2. Omar Infante 2b, 3. Hanley Ramirez ss, 4. Gabe Sanchez, 5. Greg Dobbs lf, 6. Mark Stanton rf, 7. John Buck c, 8. Emilio Bonifacio 3b, 9. Ricky Nolasco rhp (1-0, 4.05)

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