CHICAGO -- Xavier Nady has a ways to go to become the Pirates' most popular player with the public.
Inside the clubhouse, though, one gets the idea he is climbing that chart with a bullet.
"He's a winner, man," manager Jim Tracy said yesterday. "There is absolutely nothing not to like about this guy. He's just a tremendous acquisition, that's what he is."
"This guy prepares as well as anybody," hitting coach Jeff Manto said. "And he's done nothing but come through for us."
"He's been outstanding," left fielder Jason Bay said.
The numbers will back that: Since being acquired from the New York Mets at the July 31 trading deadline, Nady has established himself as a fixture for this season and beyond by batting .342 with nine doubles and 15 RBIs in 32 games.
Most impressive, if only because of his No. 5 spot in the order, he has batted .385 -- 10 for 26 -- with runners in scoring position.
"He just has a knack for the big hit," Manto said. "There's a different type of pressure that's put on the hitter with men on, and he's delivered again and again."
Nady expresses pride in those numbers -- "You like to come through for your team," he said -- but he also freely points out he was not nearly so efficient with the Mets, batting .203 with runners in scoring position.
"I struggled a lot early this season in that area, so I had to learn how to relax," Nady said. "Early on, I was up there thinking about how important it was to get big hits, and it would work against me. Now, I just try to approach it like there's no one on base."
It could be a factor, too, that there is less pressure with the Pirates than the first-place Mets. And more of a feeling of responsibility.
"I know the type of hitter he is, but I also know it's easy to get lost in the shuffle in New York," said Bay, his former teammate in the San Diego system. "You come here and know you're going to play every day, and it helps you get comfortable driving in runs."
Just about everything has worked out for Nady so far, including his solid defense at first base and right field, except for the power: He hit 14 home runs for the Mets and has one with the Pirates.
That, Manto predicted, will change.
"Xavier has power to all fields, which should help him at PNC Park with our short right field," Manto said. "I know this: He hits the ball with a very loud sound. That tells me the power's in there."
Three more promoted
With the season ending last night for Indianapolis, the Pirates' Class AAA affiliate, three players were recalled: pitchers Shane Youman and Juan Perez, and catcher Carlos Maldonado.
Youman, 26, was 4-0 with a 4.04 ERA for the Indians after spending most of the season at Class AA Altoona. He is a left-handed starter who relies more on guile than stuff.
Perez, 28, was claimed off waivers from the New York Mets last month. A left-handed reliever, he allowed one earned run in five appearances with Indianapolis.
Maldonado, 27, was named Indianapolis' most valuable player this season after batting .283 with six home runs and 47 RBIs.
Perez already was on the 40-man roster. The other two had their contracts purchased, putting the roster at its limit.
Closer Mike Gonzalez yesterday had a long-tossing session that extended to 60 feet, his first throwing since being placed on the 15-day disabled list because of elbow tendinitis.
Afterward, Tracy predicted that Gonzalez and starter Tom Gorzelanny, who has the same ailment, could return this season. He stressed, though, that the team will be cautious.
"We're hopeful of plugging them back in," Tracy said.
Shortstop Jack Wilson's inner-ear infection improved to the point he was cleared to play the field as well as pinch-hit.
The Pirates promoted shortstop Brent Lillibridge, one of their top prospects, from Class A Lynchburg to Class AA Altoona to play in the Eastern League playoffs that open tonight. Lillibridge, 22, has batted .305 with 13 home runs, 71 RBIs and 53 steals.
INDIANAPOLIS lost at Toledo, 4-0, in the one-game tiebreaker that decided the West Division champion and which team would qualify for the International League playoffs. RHP Britt Reames (0-1, 6.75) allowed three runs and four hits -- including two home runs -- in five-plus innings. LHP Juan Perez (13.50) allowed one run on two hits and a walk. RF Adam Boeve (.500) went 2 for 4.
ALTOONA was off. The Curve will open its best-of-five Eastern League semifinal playoff tonight at Akron.
WILLIAMSPORT (27-46) beat Mahoning Valley, 5-2. RHP Eric Krebs (0-1, 3.49) pitched five scoreless innings and allowed one hit while striking out eight. SS Angel Gonzalez (.276) went 2 for 4 with a double.