Pirates Notebook: Vasquez right into rotation

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Virgil Vasquez will get his chance in the Pirates' rotation right away.

Vasquez, promoted from Class AAA Indianapolis yesterday afternoon and scheduled to arrive at PNC Park late last night, will start tonight in place of Charlie Morton, who was pushed back to Sunday in what would have been Ian Snell's spot.

Morton still is experiencing stiffness from his tight left hamstring, though he described it as significantly improving yesterday.

Vasquez, 27, was 5-2 with a 4.18 ERA in 14 starts for Indianapolis. He was lifted after one inning Tuesday, so he would be fresh if needed to spell Morton. Now, he will do more than that, as management's intent is to have him stick in the rotation and to have Jeff Karstens, who has fared well in long relief, stay in the bullpen.

Vasquez's manager in Indianapolis, Frank Kremblas, played a joke on him before giving him the real reason for that short outing Tuesday.

"I fielded a comebacker to the mound and underhanded it to first," Vasquez said. "When I got to the dugout, my manager said 'Virg, we don't underhand the ball here, you're done.' I said 'Are you kidding?' but then my pitching coach told me they needed to keep me fresh in case I got called up. I just had to sit back and wait and see."

Vasquez has had one other stint in Major League Baseball, with the Detroit Tigers in 2007, and went 0-1 with an 8.64 ERA in five appearances, including three starts.

"I'm excited for another opportunity," he said. "I feel relaxed right now, and I pitch best when I'm relaxed. I'm just going to pretend it's Little League, listen to Mr. Kerrigan and show them what I can do."

Joe Kerrigan is the Pirates' pitching coach, and Vasquez became familiar with him while lasting until the final cut of spring training.

A bright future

The Pirates will be represented by legitimate potential in the All-Star Futures Game July 12 in St. Louis, with top hitting prospect Pedro Alvarez and top pitching prospect Brad Lincoln selected yesterday to play for the U.S. team.

Alvarez yesterday hit his second home run in as many days for Class AA Altoona, in just his third game for the Curve.

Buried Treasure

• The attendance of 30,120 easily was the largest for the three-game series with Cleveland. The series total was 69,391, which pales in comparison to the previous two times the Indians came to PNC Park. In 2001, the three-game series drew 110,000. In 2003, it was 100,964. Only one of those six games failed to sell out.

• Manager John Russell's ejection in the bottom of the sixth inning -- he argued that a pitch hit Nyjer Morgan on the finger, and home plate umpire Jerry Layne ruled it did not -- was just his second in two seasons. His first came Aug. 24, 2008, at Milwaukee.

• The Pirates promoted outfield prospect Starling Marte from Bradenton of the rookie-level Gulf Coast League to low Class A West Virginia. Pitcher Quinton Miller will be making the same move from short-season State College. Huntington said both prospects are held in high regard by management.

• One of the evening's loudest cheers came from the Cleveland portion of the crowd, when the nightly "Sports Headlines" feature listed the NBA Cavaliers' acquisition of Shaquille O'Neal. The crowd cheered nearly as loudly for the news of Ian Snell's demotion.

Laura Keeley can be reached at lkeeley @post-gazette.com . Catch more on the Pirates at the PG's PBC Blog .


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