Pirates Notebook: Choices for DH little better this time

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WASHINGTON -- Twenty-six players have tried to fulfill the mostly foreign job description of Pirates designated hitter in American League ballparks amid interleague play. Most of them failed. Less than a third drove in so much as two runs. Remove the long departed Mark Smith from their all-time totals, and Pirates DHs have collected just nine homers and 26 RBIs in 266 at-bats.

So maybe it helps the Pirates that their top three candidates for this weekend's interleague series with the Chicago White Sox are all former AL players: Craig Monroe, Eric Hinske and Ramon Vazquez.

"They know the American League," manager John Russell said. "That's kind of the thing in our favor, they're going to know something about these guys that we don't know because they've seen them a little bit more. It's going to be good to get those guys in."

And, Russell added, in a reference to Monroe and Hinske, "I think we got a little more power than we did last year as far as putting a DH in the game. I think it will help us."

"Our team is pretty well set up for it because we've got good, veteran guys who have done it, but other National League teams may not have that luxury," Hinske said. Those teams could end up using as a DH "just some guy who might be a backup utility infielder, or something like that."

Vazquez went 0 for 2 in a DH role in his AL days, but the other two have a plate pedigree for it: Monroe is batting .231 in 84 games with 13 home runs and 46 RBIs, Hinske .254 in 88 games with five homers and 25 RBIs.

"It is an art form," Hinske said. "It isn't easy. Guys like [the White Sox's] Jim Thome and David Ortiz, they got it down. I watched David do it in Boston for a year and a half. He's got it down to be able to sit there and then go hit."

Hinske prefers to perspire and stay active between DH at-bats. "You have to sweat, ride the bike. Don't sit around. Swing as much as you can. Just keep moving around. Otherwise, you think you're going to pinch-hit four times. I think you like doing it the older you get; when you're a young guy, you'd rather play defense, too."

Added Russell, "DHing, if you're good at it, it's probably one of the best jobs in the world."


In interleague play last season, on the road in the same Chicago where the Pirates head next, the host White Sox brutalized their National League visitors in a series sweep by a collective 37-15.

Russell believes these 2009 Pirates are different.

"I think this team has been good about all that stuff, from streaks to last year -- we heard it all winter coming into spring training. So I don't think anybody's thinking about what happened in Chicago last year. We know we have a different club. ... It's a totally different atmosphere. I think we're playing better. I just think it's a different look."

Buried treasure

• The Seattle Times blog reported yesterday that a proposed trade ofJack Wilson for Mariners shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt is dead, partly because Pirates management deemed Betancourt's price tag too high -- he is scheduled to earn between $11 million and $15 million through 2012.

• The Pirates are 21-48 overall and 4-29 in AL ballparks since 2004 in interleague play.

• The 13 left on base Wednesday marked the Pirates' most in a game this season.


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