Pirates Notebook: Duffy, hurt again, could be out of team's plans

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DENVER -- The question with Chris Duffy no longer seems to be as simple as whether or not he will return this season.

It could be whether he returns to the Pirates at all.

Duffy, the team's opening day center fielder, will have his left shoulder examined through an MRI tonight to see if there is structural damage. The shoulder had caused him enough discomfort in three games for Bradenton of the Gulf Coast League -- where he was rehabilitating a sprained left ankle -- that the team decided yesterday to shut him down.

If the test reveals anything serious, he surely would be done for the final six weeks of the season.

Even if it does not, indications are strong that the Pirates are poised to abandon their numerous attempts at salvaging something from the injury-prone, inconsistent Duffy. His shortcomings aside, management has been plenty pleased with Nate McLouth's work in an everyday role over the past month. Also, top prospect Andrew McCutchen is one step away with Class AAA Indianapolis.

Duffy, who has not played since June 28, batted .249 before leaving the lineup. It is not clear how much of a role, if any, the shoulder played in his poor showing, but manager Jim Tracy revealed yesterday that the shoulder began bothering him as early as spring training.

A place for Phelps?

It must be tempting for Tracy to find some way to get Josh Phelps' booming bat in the order, right?

"He can hit," Tracy replied to that question yesterday. "And he knows and understands the game.

"But I'll tell you what: He also understands his role, as well as the difference that in the National League he's going to get more pinch-hitting opportunities here than he did in the American League."

Good as Phelps has been off the bench, he has been better in his seven starts since general manager Dave Littlefield claimed him off waivers June 22: His average is .423 -- 11 for 26 -- with three home runs and eight RBIs.

Trouble is, his only established defensive position is first base, Adam LaRoche's spot. LaRoche has batted .347 with 31 RBIs in 41 games since June 28.

Matos dealt to Mets

The Pirates yesterday traded minor-league center fielder Luis Matos, one of their final cuts of spring training, to the New York Mets for future considerations.

Matos, 29, batted .257 for Class AAA Indianapolis, but he lost his starting duty when McCutchen was promoted last week from Class AA Altoona.

Buried treasure

Starter Zach Duke will return to game competition for the first time today, pitching an inning or two -- no more than 35-40 pitches -- for Bradenton.

Another remarkable number for the Pirates' offense this month: They have gotten home runs from 12 players, including Phelps, McLouth, LaRoche, Ronny Paulino, Jack Wilson, Ryan Doumit, Jason Bay, Freddy Sanchez, Xavier Nady, Jose Bautista, Matt Kata and Matt Morris.

Colorado, missing three-fifths of its rotation because of injury, signed former Pirates starter Mark Redman to a minor-league contract and assigned him to Class AA Tulsa. The Rockies are Redman's fourth organization this season.


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