Pirates Notebook: Teammates offer support for Duffy

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Lake Fong, Post-Gazette

The Pirates' mascot helps set up the tarp at Friday night's contest against the Padres at PNC Park. The game was called after six innings.

By Dejan Kovacevic
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Today will mark two weeks since center fielder Chris Duffy left the Pirates, and not much has changed since then.

There has been no official word on why he left.

No action taken by the team, other than to place him on the restricted list.

No real indication when -- or if -- the matter will be resolved.

Some who have spoken with Duffy have described him as relieved to be away from baseball, perhaps to the extent he no longer wants to play. But Duffy's reasons are impossible to know for certain. He has not talked publicly and, of late, neither has agent Mike Nicotera. Pirates general manager Dave Littlefield speaks regularly with Duffy's side, but he discloses nothing more.

Saturday's results

INDIANAPOLIS (32-22) lost to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, 3-1. LHP Sean Burnett (4-4, 5.48) allowed three runs and six hits in 5 1/3 innings. He struck out two, walked two and threw 47 of 76 pitches for strikes. LHP Mike Johnston (5.19) pitched two scoreless innings of relief.

ALTOONA (33-23) was swept in a doubleheader with New Hampshire, 11-6 and 8-3. In the first game, LHP Mike Connolly (5-3, 4.30) allowed four runs in 5 1/3 innings. In the second game, RHP Chris Rojas (0-1, 4.91) allowed five runs, three earned, in 3 1/3 innings. For the day, CF Vic Buttler (.306) went 2 for 7 with a double and two RBIs.

LYNCHBURG (25-30) lost at Winston-Salem, 3-2. RHP Wardell Starling (4-2, 2.24) pitched seven scoreless innings and allowed three hits. DH Neil Walker (.242) went 1 for 4.

HICKORY (24-27) won at Lakewood, 5-3. RHP Todd Redmond (5-3, 2.30) allowed one unearned run in five innings. SS Brent Lillibridge (.320) went 2 for 3 with a double and two runs. CF Andrew McCutchen (.288) went 1 for 4.

Whatever the case, those closest to Duffy in the Pirates' clubhouse sound far less concerned with Duffy's status as a player than what he might be enduring personally.

"To me, it's all about the person," catcher Ryan Doumit said. "I couldn't care less if he ever comes back. I don't care. If he doesn't want to play baseball anymore, that's his decision. He's like a brother to me, so I want his well-being to come first."

Doumit has communicated with Duffy on occasion.

"He sounded fine," Doumit said. "He sounded happy. He sounded like he knows what he's doing. And I told him, 'Dude, whatever makes you happy. Just know that I'll back whichever path you decide to take.' "

Outfielder Nate McLouth, like Doumit, rose through the ranks alongside Duffy.

"I haven't talked to Chris since he left, so I don't know what he's feeling," McLouth said. "I just hope that, in the end, however it turns out is the best for him, whatever ultimately makes him the happiest."

One thing has changed since Duffy left, actually: The Pirates this week replaced a placard bearing his likeness outside PNC Park with one of third baseman Freddy Sanchez.

On July 1, Duffy will be one of three players recognized on a "Young Guns" bobblehead, along with Doumit and starter Zach Duke. Those were made months ago overseas, and it is too late to make alterations.

Field bounces back

PNC Park's infield still was recovering yesterday from the heavy rain and 4 1/2 tons of quick-drying dirt applied during the shortened game Friday. The grounds crews arrived at 7:30 a.m. and stripped the infield almost to its core to rebuild it.

Each team described the conditions Friday as the worst they could recall.

"It was unbelievable, really," San Diego catcher Mike Piazza said. "The infield looked like the Everglades. I didn't want to hit a grounder for fear that I'd ruin the habitat of some endangered species."

"By the end of the third inning," Pirates manager Jim Tracy said, "that wasn't a baseball game anymore."

Randa takes next step

Third baseman Joe Randa performed a full workout for the first time since his right foot was fractured, and he remains on pace to begin a rehabilitation stint next weekend.

He ran the bases early in the day and, after an afternoon rain, took the field for 15 minutes of grounders from third base coach Jeff Cox. He showed no trace of discomfort.

Buried treasure

San Diego's Chris Young, once a prized prospect of the Pirates, will pitch against them for the first time today. Young was dealt in late 2002 for reliever Matt Herges, who was released by the Pirates the following spring. He is 4-3 with a 3.80 ERA and took a no-hitter in the eighth inning of his most recent start.

Pirates starter Oliver Perez slipped on the wet surface and landed face-first in the grass Friday, slightly twisting his neck, but no ill effects were reported yesterday.

Brian Bixler, a shortstop at Class A Lynchburg who was the Pirates' second-round draft pick two summers ago, ranks second in the Carolina League with a .333 average. He has 15 doubles, 25 RBIs and, according to director of player development Brian Graham, has been "excellent defensively."

Dejan Kovacevic can be reached at dkovacevic@post-gazette.com.


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