Pirates Notebook: Torres set to return as closer vs. Yankees

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Monday's results

INDIANAPOLIS (34-22) beat Charlotte, 4-1. RHP Marty McLeary (4-1, 2.55) allowed one run and four hits in six innings. He struck out five and walked two. LHP Juan Perez (2.13) recorded his second save with three scoreless innings of relief. He struck out two, walked none and threw 27 of 39 pitches for strikes. SS Brian Bixler (.324) hit his fourth home run and went 1 for 3 with a walk. CF Luis Matos (.275) went 2 for 3 with a double.

ALTOONA (26-27) was off.

LYNCHBURG (28-26) won at Myrtle Beach, 6-4. RHP Serguey Linares (1-1, 2.53) allowed three runs in 5 2/3 innings. 1B Jason Delaney (.360) hit his eighth and ninth home runs and went 2 for 4 with a walk and three RBIs. CF Pedro Powell (.265) went 3 for 5.

HICKORY (22-32) was off.

Recently deposed closer Salomon Torres, who probably should wear "Catch 22" instead of "Torres 16" on the back of his uniform, will return to his previous role this weekend at Yankee Stadium.

The reason: Matt Capps gets his appeal hearing Friday morning in Major League Baseball's New York offices over the four-game suspension he received for plunking Milwaukee's Prince Fielder May 5.

"If it's for four days, he'll be the closer for four days," Pirates manager Jim Tracy said yesterday. "If it's for three days, he'll be the closer for three days ..."

In short, it's a legal issue.

Yet Tracy maintained that he isn't about to yank, limit or otherwise deviate from his norm with his current set-up man. Therein lies the catch-22 factor with Torres.

This is a pitcher, a 35-year-old veteran of nearly 400 games, who improves with steady work. And nobody in the big leagues has worked more than Torres with 199 relief appearances since 2005 entering last night, a dozen more than his closest bullpen competition. So for Torres to come close to progressing into the reliever who converted 12 of 13 save opportunities late last season, he must continue to pitch.

"We need Salomon Torres, point blank," Tracy said of the pitcher who gave up two runs Thursday to San Diego and two more Sunday to Los Angeles, both resulting in defeats. "With over 100 games left to play, if we're going to have a good season, an effective season, we need Salomon Torres. He's a veteran guy down there in that bullpen."

In essence, Tracy said what he and the Pirates need to do is tire Torres. It has been a constant throughout Torres' recent history of 78, 84 and a major league-leading 94 appearances the past three seasons: The more innings he works and the weaker his right arm grows, the more his pitches dance.

It runs counter to baseball's conventional wisdom, Tracy said. "But the ball does not have the same life [until he weakens later in the season]. The ball gets deeper, the sink gets deeper, the split-finger gets better. He was virtually unhittable the last three months of last season. Unhittable. [Opposing batters] hated to see him get in the game. Because there was not going to be one pitch he threw that didn't have late movement, late life.

"When he's really, really strong [early in the season], he has a tendency to leave the ball up in the zone. Like the ball [Sunday on which the Dodgers' Andre Ethier hit a two-run homer in the eighth], for example. When I went and looked at the replay, it wasn't a belt-high fastball; it was a low fastball. It was a flat, two-seamer. It didn't have nearly the same type of action of the ball he threw to Luis Gonzalez [for a bases-loaded forceout to end] the seventh inning. The pitch he threw was flat, and it just sat there. The ball does not have the same life."

He has permitted opponents to score just three times in his past 15 appearances, for a total of six earned runs, yet he has blown five saves in 17 opportunities. Opposing batters this season are hitting .248 against him, yet he has surrendered just 10 hits in the past 55 at-bats for a .181 clip.

"He has the stuff to get both [left- and right-handed hitters] out. We got to keep sending him out there. We have to do it."

Davis recalled; Cota out

After the game last night, the Pirates designated backup catcher Humberto Cota for assignment -- meaning he is on waivers for the next 10 days or could get traded -- and recalled Rajai Davis from Class AAA Indianapolis.

Davis was hitting .318 with 4 home runs, 30 RBIs and 27 stolen bases with the Indians.

Cota, batting .286, is out of options and must decide whether to accept the assignment in the minors, if it comes to that. He was unavailable for comment last night.

Trickle-down problems

Tracy on late-inning stumbles: "We had a game get away from us on Thursday against the Padres, which would have won for us the series. We had a game get away from us [Sunday] when we had the lead. We can't continue to sit in here and talk about games that get away from us. You can find five or six ballgames already [like that this season]. ... You're not going to win every one of them. But you certainly have to win your fair share of them, and you have to do a better job than we have." If such late-inning failures mount, "the trickle-down effect can be detrimental to a club, no question."


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