WASHINGTON -- Xavier Nady is well enough that he could be the Pirates' designated hitter for the three-game set that opens tonight in Yankee Stadium.
Or he could do more.
Manager Jim Tracy said yesterday that the team's athletic trainers were encouraged enough by Nady's recovery from a tight left hamstring -- he was removed in the second inning Wednesday night after feeling what he described as a "burning sensation" running the bases -- that he was made available for pinch-hitting yesterday.
He did not pinch-hit, but he did some running before the game -- by his estimate, "60-70 percent speed" -- and reported little difficulty.
"It's not anything like the last time," Nady said, referring to missing 10 starts to the same injury in late April and early May. "It's already feeling better."
More tests today in New York will determine if Nady can return to right field, something Tracy did not rule out for this weekend. If he cannot, he probably will be the designated hitter rather than Ryan Doumit.
Another dead duck
The Pirates had their 14th runner thrown out at home yesterday, the second time it happened without a slide.
In the second inning of the 3-2 victory against the Washington Nationals, Ronny Paulino was on first base when Jack Wilson doubled to left. Although Paulino clearly was going less than full tilt from first to third, third base coach Jeff Cox waved him home.
Tracy praised Cox for the decision, pointing out that pitcher Ian Snell was on deck with two outs.
Left fielder Ryan Church's throw to catcher Brian Schneider was on target, and Paulino was tagged without a slide. Why no slide?
"I never got a signal," Paulino said.
That was because Snell was back at the on-deck circle rather than close to the box to give Paulino the slide sign.
Tracy took no issue with any aspect of the play, including the non-slide.
"It didn't look to me like he had a chance to score," Tracy said.
The Pirates tonight begin a stretch of 15 interleague games, and that never is a good thing.
They are 52-84 overall since the leagues began crisscrossing in 1997, and that includes 10 opposition sweeps in 46 series and a 19-46 mark in American League parks.
And they bottomed out last year, going 3-12 and getting outscored, 93-71.
"It hasn't been very kind to us," Tracy said. "There are some good teams in the American League, I'll tell you that."
Few would dispute that, given the American's continuing dominance of the National across the board. Still, the Pirates' negative numbers are staggering, and they might be traced to a massive disparity in designated hitters when playing on the road: Opponents send to the plate sluggers whose careers are built around the bat, while the Pirates' designated hitters for the past decade have batted .254 with nine home runs in 240 at-bats.
Doumit, the main DH the past two years, batted .182 -- 6 for 33 -- with no home runs and four RBIs.
"Those teams have their lineups and don't have to change a thing when we come into their place," Tracy said. "But that will be different next week, when they come to Pittsburgh and their pitchers have to hit."
The Pirates are 9-23 against the five teams -- Yankees, Texas Rangers, Chicago White Sox, Seattle Mariners, Los Angeles Angels -- they face in this stretch.
Capps hearing today
Closer Matt Capps' appeal of his four-game suspension for hitting the Milwaukee Brewers' Prince Fielder with a pitch May 5 finally will be heard this morning in New York.
The case will be heard by Bob Watson, vice president of on-field operations for Major League Baseball, and a ruling is expected before the game tonight.
Capps spent part of yesterday morning on the phone preparing for the hearing.
Asked if he remembers anything about the incident, now five weeks old, he laughed and replied, "We'll see."
Salomon Torres will be the closer in Capps' absence, and Tracy reiterated -- passionately -- his support for Torres despite monster struggles of late: "We need him. We need him! You can't manage around Salomon Torres. He has to be a part of what we do."
Rajai Davis made his third start in a row since being promoted from Class AAA Indianapolis, and he should get a fourth tonight against left-hander Andy Pettitte.
Josh Shortslef, a left-handed starter for Class AA Altoona and member of the Pirates' 40-man roster, yesterday avoided opening his season 0-7, which would have matched a Curve record. Shortslef, 1-6 despite a respectable 3.88 ERA, went six innings in a 13-6 rout of New Britain.
INDIANAPOLIS (37-22) beat Rochester, 8-3. RHP John Wasdin (1-0, 5.19) allowed three runs and seven hits in 5 2/3 innings. RHP Masumi Kuwata (0.00) pitched 2 1/3 innings of scoreless relief, allowing one hit. He struck out one, walked none and threw 16 of 25 pitches for strikes. CF Luis Matos (.292) hit his second home run and went 3 for 4 with two RBIs.
ALTOONA (28-28) won at New Britain, 13-6. LHP Josh Shortslef (1-6, 3.88) allowed four runs, three earned, in six innings. 1B Steve Pearce (.301) went 4 for 5 with a double, a walk and five RBIs. 3B Neil Walker (.315) went 4 for 6 with two doubles and four RBIs. CF Andrew McCutchen (.226) went 2 for 7 with two RBIs.
LYNCHBURG (28-29) lost to Salem, 5-4. RHP Clayton Hamilton (2-3, 5.21) allowed two runs in 7 1/3 innings. RF Brad Corley (.224) went 3 for 4 with two doubles and three RBIs.
HICKORY (23-34) lost to Asheville, 12-3. RHP Dionis Rodriguez (0-0, 3.60) allowed three runs in six innings. 2B Jose de los Santos (.500) went 2 for 4 with a double and three RBIs.