Brandon Moss was back in the Pirates' lineup last night after being benched for half of the previous six games, but manager John Russell insisted that neither was a big deal.
"People are talking about Moss like he's a platoon player, and that isn't the case," Russell said yesterday. "He's our starting right fielder. We're sticking by him. We just need to get him going."
To get Moss going, as the numbers painfully illustrate, it will mean adding greatly to the RBI total. Moss has just two. He is 2 for 22 with men on base, 1 for 14 with men in scoring position, with the first hit in the latter category coming last night in the 8-6 victory against the Cincinnati Reds.
"Yeah, I know," Moss said. "It's funny, but it's usually the other way around. I usually hit much better with people on base. But I've gotten my hits when no one is out there. It's just how it's happened."
For his major league career, he bats .280 with men on base, .227 with no one aboard.
"It was a tough month. I'm not going to lie," Moss continued. "It was definitely the least productive month of my career, including the minors. Not the lowest average, but the least productive. I've always gotten off to a little bit of a slow start, and that's frustrating. Maybe I was trying to do a little too much. But I'm starting to relax."
Moss, part of the Jason Bay trade, is batting .206 after going 1 for 4 last night. The evening began with more futility in the clutch when he popped out with bases loaded and nobody out in the first inning. He lined an RBI single into right in the third, but he again failed with bases loaded and nobody out in the seventh, bouncing into a forceout at home.
Reliever Craig Hansen will not come off the 15-day disabled list when eligible Tuesday, but he will take a stride with his first throwing session this morning.
Hansen, out because of spasms in his neck and upper back, sounded optimistic about a quick return, even if his recovery involves -- as Russell suggested it might -- a rehabilitation stint with Class AAA Indianapolis.
"I'm feeling a lot better," Hansen said. "The throwing will be a good test."
• Russell declined comment when asked if Jeff Karstens deserved to be fined by Major League Baseball for hitting the Milwaukee Brewers' Ryan Braun with a pitch last week.
• Karstens, the starter today, gave up three home runs Monday in Milwaukee, a sign of continuing inconsistency when contrasted against several strong innings. "He did pitch better after the home runs. Unfortunately, that's after the fact," Russell said. "He's not a guy who's going to overpower anybody, so command is huge with him. And not just the fastball."
• Derrick Turnbow, a reliever the Pirates pursued this offseason, is a free agent again. He exercised a clause in his contract with Texas that allowed him to declare free agency if not added to the Rangers' roster by May 1. Turnbow had an 8.58 ERA, one strikeout and nine walks in eight games for Class AAA Oklahoma City.
• Jim Negrych, the second baseman at Class AA Altoona and the Pirates' minor league player of the year in 2008, has a left leg injury that could keep him out until next week. He is batting .373 but has seven errors.
• Outfielder Garrett Jones, one of the Pirates' top spring performers, was named Indianapolis' player of the month for April after batting .314 with three home runs, eight doubles, 20 RBIs and three steals. The average ranked second in the International League, as did his .369 on-base percentage.