Pirates Notebook: Cox nearly perfect as third base coach

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ST. LOUIS -- It happened July 14.

With the Pirates up by two runs on the Washington Nationals at PNC Park, Freddy Sanchez stroked a single up the middle. Jack Wilson was waved home by third base coach Jeff Cox, and Wilson was thrown out at the plate.

Why is that noteworthy?

It marked the only time all season a runner waved home by Cox failed to score.

"Amazing," third baseman Joe Randa said.

"Yeah, that's pretty good, huh?" Wilson said.

One other runner was thrown out at the plate on a ball struck to the outfield this season, but that happened when Sanchez ran through Cox's stop sign April 23 in Houston and was nailed by 15 feet. No other player has run through a stop sign.

And this might be the most impressive aspect of Cox's performance: He tends to employ an aggressive approach in waving runners, and he hardly is blessed with a speedy roster that can negate his mistakes.

"It's about how hard he studies and works at it," bench coach Jim Lett said. "He's really prepared, from knowing all the outfielders' arms to understanding all the situations even before they play out."

Lett shook his head.

"That's a tough job over there. What he's doing there is incredible."

"He's one of the best I've ever had," Randa said. "In addition to being prepared, he has a sense for the game. He sees how hard the ball is hit, thinks about how slow the grass might be, the instinct of the runner, the outfielders' positioning ... this is all going on in his head at the same time."

Cox, 50, is in his 34th year of professional baseball and was the Florida Marlins' third base coach in 2004-05.

His enthusiasm is palpable. On the field, he can be seen standing in his box during batting practice leaping as he waves home phantom runners. Off the field, his mannerisms are akin to a cartoon character, his hands clapping, feet tapping and mouth moving at a manic pace in incessant cheerleading.

"He's completely passionate about the game," manager Jim Tracy said. "And when you have someone like that and he's done that kind of job, what more could you ask?"

Cox has heard the tales of previous third base coaches getting jeered in Pittsburgh. It is safe to say they have not fazed him much.

"The job? Oh, I love it. Love it!" he said with the trademark clap. "My gosh, I love the action. Getting the signs from the dugout, relaying them, going on contact, what to do if the ball clears the mound, if it sits in front of the plate, thinking about the outfielders. I just ... I just love the action!"

And of his success?

"It's a thankless job. But you've got to love it!"

Wilson still wobbly

Wilson's inner-ear infection forced him out of a seventh start. If it lingers beyond this weekend, it could put him on the disabled list.

He continues to get dizzy when making sudden movements with his head.

"It got better after the first week," he said. "Now, it's been pretty much the same for a while."

Gorzelanny throws

Starter Tom Gorzelanny did his first throwing yesterday -- a long-tossing session capped at 140 feet -- and closer Mike Gonzalez could do his as early as Monday.

Each was placed on the disabled list six days ago because of elbow tendinitis, and each would have to show remarkable progress to return this season. But no one has ruled that out yet.

Buried treasure

Reliever Josh Sharpless, out since his right ankle was sprained Aug. 9, was activated from the 15-day disabled list. No other roster move was necessary because yesterday was the first day 25-man rosters could expand.

Outfielder Nate McLouth, out with a sprained left ankle, ran the bases for the first time.

Altoona, the Pirates' Class AA affiliate, will open the best-of-five Eastern League semifinal playoff round Wednesday at Akron.

Friday's results

INDIANAPOLIS (75-64) beat Louisville, 6-3. RHP Ryan Vogelsong (4-5, 2.66) allowed three runs and nine hits in six innings. He struck out three, walked none and threw 63 of 92 pitches for strikes. 2B Craig Stansberry (.230) went 1 for 2 with two walks and two runs.

ALTOONA (75-61) and Bowie were rained out.

LYNCHBURG (61-75) was rained out at Frederick.

HICKORY (65-70) lost to West Virginia, 10-6. RHP Mike Crotta (1-2, 10.38) allowed seven runs in two innings. SS Cameron Blair (.246) went 2 for 4 with his fifth home run and a walk.

WILLIAMSPORT (26-43) lost at Mahoning Valley, 6-5. RHP Henry Cabrera (5-2, 4.44) allowed six runs in 2 1/3 innings. 3B Alex Peralta (.244) went 3 for 4 with an RBI.



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