The Pirates insisted, upon optioning John Van Benschoten to Class AAA Indianapolis yesterday, that they were mostly satisfied with his pitching and that the primary reason for the demotion was that he needs to get his arm "stretched out," as general manager Neal Huntington put it, with more innings.
"We very much are interested in continuing to develop him," Huntington said.
- INDIANAPOLIS (19-20) was swept in a doubleheader with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, 2-1 in 10 innings, and 5-2. In the first game, RHP Adam Bernero (0-0, 3.68) allowed one run and six hits in six innings. In the second game, RHP Luis Munoz (2-1, 4.15) allowed five runs and six hits in 5 1/3 innings. For the day, RF Steve Pearce (.241) hit his fourth home run and went 2 for 8. CF Andrew McCutchen (.290) went 3 for 7 with a double, two walks and a steal. 3B Neil Walker (.200) went 1 for 7 with a double. LF Nyjer Morgan (.000) went 0 for 9 and is hitless in 18 at-bats since being demoted.
- ALTOONA (14-22) was rained out at Reading.
- LYNCHBURG (15-21) lost at Winston-Salem, 4-2. RHP Jared Hughes (1-5, 4.54) allowed four runs and four hits in 41/3 innings. 3B Jim Negrych (.397) went 1 for 4.
- HICKORY (16-22) lost at Columbus, 6-4. RHP Duke Welker (0-1, 4.09), pitching for the first time since an April 10 ankle injury, allowed four runs and five hits in four innings. RF Marcus Davis (.256) hit his sixth home run, a two-run shot, and went 1 for 4.
Van Benschoten certainly seemed to take this latest up-then-down in that spirit.
"I'll go down, get my work in, and I'll be back soon," he said. "I'll rise up from this."
Still, the numbers are unkind: Van Benschoten, 28, allowed nine runs on 13 hits and six walks in 7 2/3 innings since being recalled April 27. That included seven runs in four-plus innings yesterday, including a fifth inning in which he failed to retire any of the five batters he faced.
And this: In 21 major league games now, he has been charged with 81 runs in 74 1/3 innings.
Huntington pointed out that Van Benschoten yesterday wore down at the point of 55-60 pitches, on his way to a total of 77, and attributed that to his being limited to long relief until yesterday.
Before the recall, Van Benschoten made four starts with Indianapolis, with a total of 24 innings, and went 4-0 with a 1.88 ERA.
"He has major league stuff," Huntington said. "It's just getting his location and command consistent."
The Pirates will add a pitcher to replace Van Benschoten today, presumably in time for the opener of their series in St. Louis.
The best at Indianapolis, by most measures, has been Jesse Chavez. In 22 1/3 innings, he has given up 4 earned runs, 10 hits and 5 walks, the latter two numbers key for relievers. He also has struck out 23, thanks to a crisp fastball and highly effective slider.
Moreover, he has been getting stretched out to two and even three innings of late, a sign he could be getting groomed for long relief.
Marino Salas also has been very good, with a 0.77 ERA, but his other numbers are not quite a match: In 23 1/3 innings, he has given up 17 hits and seven walks while striking out 20. The catch: He is seen as a work in progress, having undergone major mechanical changes this spring.
Huntington also could acquire a pitcher from the outside.
The Pirates expect to close the book on the Evan Meek matter this afternoon or evening.
Today marks 10 days since Meek, the Rule 5 draft pick, was designated for assignment May 4. He has since cleared waivers, and the final call on his fate now belongs to Tampa Bay, his original employer: The Rays can take him back at a cost of $25,000, or they can accept the Pirates' trade offer, believed to be a cash payment.
Shortstop Brian Bixler was hit by a pitch in Game 1 and was lucky to escape injury.
The 91-mph fastball from Atlanta's Jair Jurrjens nailed him in the upper back, squarely on the spine and just below the neck, and felled him. He was back on his feet within a minute, though, and played in both games.
"If it had hit a little higher, I might have been in trouble," Bixler said.
• The Pirates' errorless streak ended at 54 innings in a big way with six errors over the doubleheader, including one each by three different third basemen: Jose Bautista, Chris Gomez and Doug Mientkiewicz.
• Center fielder Nate McLouth snapped an 0-for-14 slump with a single in his final at-bat of Game 2. "A real relief," he called it.
• Because the Mother's Day game was rained out, players on both sides used their pink bats in Game 1, part of Major League Baseball's program to raise awareness of breast cancer.