Pirates Notebook: Bautista could return this week

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There will be no disabled list for Jose Bautista.

He might not even miss a week.

That was the diagnosis for the Pirates' third baseman yesterday afternoon, a day after his left ankle was sprained on an ugly collision at home plate. And it could not have met with a better reception.

"I'm really relieved," Bautista said.

"We dodged a pretty big-sized bullet," manager Jim Tracy said. "I can't say that I thought that would be the party line this afternoon, but there it is."

Bautista was examined by the Pirates' medical staff, which found his strength in the ankle to be good and the likelihood of ligament tears to be minimal. No MRI was deemed necessary.

He was walking about the clubhouse with a limp and has been instructed to keep weight off the ankle and wear a soft cast some of the time, but he pronounced himself "much better" than Sunday.

Bautista said he expected to return "sometime this week," and Tracy would not rule out that he could play in the four-game series with the Florida Marlins that will end Thursday.

Castillo to third

Jose Castillo took Bautista's place at third base -- his first career start, third appearance at the position -- and will remain there until Bautista's return.

Tracy had the option to arrange his infield as it was most of last season, with Castillo at second and Freddy Sanchez at third, but he was reluctant to have Sanchez shift positions temporarily.

"You know full well that Bautista's going to be back at third base in a few days, and you've got a second baseman who won the National League batting championship and is starting to get himself untracked offensively," Tracy said. "Now, to throw him over to third base where he hasn't taken a ground ball since we started spring training? I think you're doing yourself a huge disservice."

Armas gets last chance

Tony Armas will make his next scheduled start Thursday but, as Tracy told him in a meeting yesterday afternoon without mincing words, he will be out of the rotation if there is no significant improvement.

"I don't think that anything I told him was going to surprise him," Tracy said. "He should know -- he has to know -- that he's not going to stay in the rotation with an ERA close to 9.00. ... Let's see what happens Thursday."

Armas is 0-3 with a league-high 8.76 ERA and a .370 opponents' batting average.

He has had two major shoulder surgeries, the sort of thing that invariably leads to questions about a pitcher's health when things go badly. But Armas was adamant yesterday that his arm is trouble-free, in his talk with Tracy and in an interview later.

"Health-wise, I'm fine," Armas said. "What can I say? I'm trying hard. It's frustrating, and I don't get frustrated that easily. My stuff is there. My pitches are there. Things just aren't going my way. I'm going through a bad period."

Morgan having surgery

Center fielder Nyjer Morgan, a member of the Pirates' 40-man roster and Class AAA Indianapolis' dynamic leadoff man, will have surgery today to repair a dislocated thumb.

The operation will be performed at Allegheny General Hospital by Dr. Mark Baratz, the Pirates' hand specialist, after which it will be clearer how much time he might miss.

Morgan, 26, was injured Sunday in the third inning of Indianapolis' 5-3 victory at Ottawa. He is batting .308 with 22 steals and 24 runs in 34 games.

Buried treasure

The New York Mets, despite a need for a second baseman, are not interested in trading for Castillo, a source in New York said yesterday.

Reliever Matt Capps' appeal hearing with Major League Baseball officials, scheduled for today at PNC Park, was postponed indefinitely because of a scheduling conflict with those officials. Capps is appealing his four-game suspension for hitting the Milwaukee Brewers' Prince Fielder May 5.

Shortstop Jack Wilson was back in the No. 2 spot of the order -- he had been dropped to eighth for the previous four games -- but Tracy advised against reading too much into it: For one, Bautista had been batting second. For another, Wilson was 5 for 17 against Florida starter Dontrelle Willis.

Monday's results

INDIANAPOLIS (22-14) beat Ottawa, 15-10. LHP Sean Burnett (3-3, 4.33) allowed eight runs, five earned, and nine hits in four innings. He struck out four, walked one, threw 38 of 70 pitches for strikes and had two wild pitches. RHP Jesse Chavez (3.10) pitched three scoreless innings to earn the victory. RF Michael Ryan (.179) hit his first two home runs and went 3 for 5. LF Chris Aguila (.225) hit his second home run and went 2 for 5 with three RBIs. SS Brian Bixler (.363) went 4 for 5 with a double and an RBI.

ALTOONA (17-16) was off.

LYNCHBURG (14-19) beat Wilmington, 2-0. LHP Kyle Bloom (3-3, 5.14) pitched six shutout innings and allowed two hits. 1B Jason Delaney (.339) went 2 for 4 with a double.

HICKORY (15-20) lost at Lexington, 9-4. RHP Jared Hughes (2-2, 3.79) allowed five runs, three earned, in five innings. 3B Jared Keel (.271) went 3 for 4 with two doubles, an RBI and a walk.



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