Pirates Notebook: Capps to bring back heat

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CHICAGO -- Expect to see the old Matt Capps next spring.

No, the Pirates' closer cannot guarantee his previous level of performance, but he does plan to revert to his previous repertoire.

"Fastball, fastball, fastball," as he put it yesterday.

Throughout this setback season -- six blown six saves, eight losses and a 5.91 ERA -- the most striking facet has been Capps' inability to command the fastball, something he always had done at will. He and pitching coach Joe Kerrigan have examined video back to 2005, looking for clues, and have come up empty.

Capps does have a theory, though.

"I've tried a lot of different pitches this year, the slider, the change ... I've had a sinker, too, that runs in on right-handers," he said. "But when I'm just myself out there, I'm letting her rip. Just throw gas. Keep everything consistent about what I'm doing."

Pitchers can lose the edge on their fastball when sinkers, in particular, because their arm action changes. Ross Ohlendorf experienced something similar in the first half before his strong finish. Capps' velocity has been at typical 94-95 mph range in his past few appearances, but it has been down at times, too.

The larger issue, anyway, has been location, as his fastballs have stayed up in the zone.

"That's my bread and butter, and I need to get back to it," Capps said. "I can still show the other pitches, but I need to work off the fastball."

Russell on free agency

Manager John Russell was asked about his free-agency wish list.

"It's hard to say," he replied. "To say what specific area, we'll see what the board holds. Is it a left fielder? A second baseman? A pitcher? We'll just have to see what's available. Offensively, we've struggled. It would be nice to find a bat that can be productive."

He also reiterated his wish for a left-handed reliever effective against batters from both sides.

"But, then, there are 29 other teams looking for those, too."

No call yet on Hill

The Pirates and first base coach Perry Hill still have not reached agreement on a contract to return, but neither side has ruled it out. A resolution is expected no later than early next week.

Hill, one of the game's top infield instructors, is the only member of the staff uncertain to return.

Buried treasure

• The Elias Sports Bureau determined that the Pirates' 4-0 shutout in Game 1 of the doubleheader sweep Wednesday marked the largest margin of victory in franchise history in any shutout in which all of the Pirates' runs came in the first inning.

• Russell, Kerrigan and general manager Neal Huntington will meet today in Cincinnati to determine if Kevin Hart will get another start tomorrow in the finale. He made 96 pitches in lasting only four innings Tuesday, and his consistent inefficency is a concern. No word on a possible replacement.

• The Pirates and Tampa Bay Rays jointly announced they will refursbish two youth fields in Bradenton, Fla., their spring home, at a cost of $180,000. "The transformation of this complex, much like the Gibson Field renovation in Pittsburgh, will provide a terrific place for underserved youth to play baseball and softball," team president Frank Coonelly said.

Catch more on the Pirates at the PG's PBC Blog . Dejan Kovacevic can be reached at dkovacevic@post-gazette.com . First Published October 2, 2009 4:00 AM


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