Pirates Notebook: Different feel for home opener

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CINCINNATI -- The P on their caps will be replaced by a PBP, headgear that the visiting team also will don for pregame introductions. Their left uniform sleeve will carry a commemorative patch bearing that same acronym for the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police. There will be a moment of silence and a rendition of taps amid the routinely upbeat home-opener ceremonies where today the Pirates pause to pay respect to the three Pittsburgh police officers killed April 4 in the line of duty.

Minor-league report
Saturday's results

INDIANAPOLIS (0-3) lost to Toledo, 5-4. LHP Tom Gorzelanny (0-0, 4.50) allowed three runs and three hits in six innings. He struck out six, walked two and threw 58 of 91 pitches for strikes. RHP Evan Meek (0.00) pitched 11/3hitless innings of relief. He struck out two, walked one. 3B Neil Walker (.385) went 3 for 5 with a double and RBI. CF Andrew McCutchen (.308) went 0 for 5.

ALTOONA (0-4) lost at Erie, 2-1, for the worst four-game start in franchise history. RHP Mike Crotta (0-0, 0.00) pitched five scoreless innings and allowed five hits. He struck out three, walked none. SS Brian Friday (.667) went 3 for 3 with a walk. CF Jose Tabata (.235) went 0 for 4.

LYNCHBURG (2-1) lost to Potomac, 2-0. RHP Ronald Uviedo (0-1, 1.50) allowed two runs, one earned, and seven hits in six innings. 3B Pedro Alvarez (.231) went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts.

WEST VIRGINIA (0-3) wasswept in a twinight doubleheader with Lexington, 6-3 and 13-2. In the first game, LHP Rudy Owens (0-0, 4.50) allowed two runs and six hits in four innings. In the nightcap, LHP Gabriel Alvarado (0-0, 6.75) allowed four runs, three earned, and five hits in four innings.

"It's a great thing that we're able to honor those guys," said Zach Duke, the Pirates' starting pitcher at 1:35 p.m. today.

"Those guys are heroes," added catcher Ryan Doumit, referring to policemen in general and, in particular, to the ones killed in the Stanton Heights shootout: Eric G. Kelly, Stephen J. Mayhle and Paul Sciullo II. "They're out there every day putting their lives on the line. I'm proud to wear those hats."

Under everyday circumstances, a home opener brims with sunshine and optimism no matter the weather.

Today's game at PNC Park will have a different veneer to it.

"Seems like we've been gone for ... a year," Pirates manager John Russell began yesterday from his office inside Great American Ball Park's visitors clubhouse. "It was a long spring training, then we opened the season on the road [in St. Louis and Cincinnati for the week]. Guys are anxious to get home, not only to Pittsburgh, but to the stadium and clubhouse. ... Have somebody cheering for you rather than against you. I think it's going to be a very exciting day.

"And a special day as well with the ceremony for the fallen policemen. That's going to be a really moving experience, obviously. I think it hits everybody. We have policemen around the stadium quite often. We know what they do for us. It's a sad moment, it really is."

Buried treasure

• Andy LaRoche extended his season-opening hitless streak to 0 for 14 with a strikeout and a flyout yesterday before being replaced in the eighth inning by pinch-batter Ramon Vazquez. Vazquez fared no better, grounding back to pitcher Aaron Harang -- who allowed three hits in 29 at-bats overall.

• Payback for Nyjer Morgan? A day after his home-plate collision with Cincinnati catcher Ramon Hernandez and, more to the point, his hard slide into second baseman Brandon Phillips, Morgan got plunked in the back on his second at-bat yesterday by Harang. He then guessed and broke for second base on an attempted steal before Harang moved toward home, and Harang threw him out easily.

• Today is the last day Jeff Karstens is available for relief duty, what with Friday's rained-out starter scheduled to start Thursday against Houston.


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