Pirates Notebook: Yates begins to sharpen game

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Tyler Yates is aware of how it looks.

He has made 11 appearances out of the Pirates' bullpen and has a 7.56 ERA, worst on the staff, two home runs and six walks to go with seven strikeouts. To boot, most of his work has come in tight situations late in games.

"Yeah, I know," Yates said. "But I'm battling through it. It's been one month. There's a long way to go."

There is, but manager John Russell has not been shy about turning toward Jesse Chavez and, more recently, Evan Meek when he needs a right-hander in close games, so Yates likely will need to sharpen his game soon to retain the setup role he shares with John Grabow.

"We think Yates is going to be fine," Russell said. "He's hit some bumps, but you're going to see that with a power arm from time to time, where the command isn't there. When he hits his spots, he's doing all right."

Power probably will be key. Although Yates has worked a sinker comfortably into his repertoire, his best stretch with the Pirates -- a terrific September last year in which he had a 2.84 ERA and struck out nine of his final 13 batters -- came almost entirely as the result of getting his fastball up to 95-96 mph.

"I'm really not worried about it," Yates said. "The arm feels good, my stuff feels good, and it's just a matter of putting it all together."

Yates might have begun to do that last night against Milwaukee: He was summoned to face one batter, Rickie Weeks, in the eighth inning and, despite digging a 3-1 hole, struck him out on a check-swing through a 96-mph fastball.

Braun's sudden rise

Ryan Braun had quite the day.

It began in Milwaukee, where the Brewers' slugger had an MRI on his stiff back, and he received encouraging news that there was no structural damage. From there, he flew to Pittsburgh in time to pinch-hit in the eighth inning and came through with a two-run, tying double off Grabow.

Braun then took left field, as if nothing at all had happened.

Braun was hit by Jeff Karstens' pitch in the upper back last week at Miller Park, after which he went 1 for 14. The Brewers asked doctors if the back injury was related to that pitch and, assistant general manager Gord Ash said, "they didn't rule it out." Braun had trouble with his lower back, too, last year.

Buried treasure

• Catcher Ryan Doumit will have stitches in his right wrist removed tomorrow, after which he will be free to perform many more exercises.

• Milwaukee outfielder Chris Duffy had a chance to meet up with some former teammates -- including Doumit, a close friend -- upon the Brewers' arrival Sunday night. He said he is enjoying the new environment: "It's my first time being around a lot of veterans. When you're here and see guys like Mike Cameron, Trevor Hoffman, Jason Kendall ... it's neat."

• Duffy had to enter the game to replace Bill Hall in left field after Hall's right hamstring cramped after making a diving catch in the first inning. He is day to day.

• Russell said he would like to get utilityman Delwyn Young his first start soon -- he has has yet to make one since being acquired April 17 -- and hinted it might be at second base. Infield instructor Perry Hill told Russell Young could be ready to play that position as early as tonight.


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