Pirates Notebook: Duke to skip start for elbow

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Zach Duke knew that feeling. He remembered that stiffness around his left, pitching elbow all too well.

"My shoulder got a little tired earlier [this season], but it was no big deal. This is," Duke said Saturday, an ice pack encasing the area around his elbow. "I had [this] in '07, tried to pitch through it, ended up on the shelf for two months. Lesson learned."

As a result of a mild muscle strain he sustained Wednesday, about the time he yielded five earned runs in a 7-2 loss against the Chicago White Sox, Duke will skip his start Tuesday at Texas. Ross Ohlendorf will start Tuesday, then Paul Maholm, Jeff Karstens and Brad Lincoln before Duke would be available Saturday in Oakland.

"It started to stiffen up on me," Duke recalled. "I realized my pitches weren't the way they usually are. The velocity was down. The location was down."

Manager John Russell said the Pirates chose to take the conservative path and remove Duke from this spin through the rotation. Should Duke get through a scheduled side session Wednesday in Texas without difficulty, he will start Saturday.

"If everything keeps progressing the way it is, it should be four, five days," Duke said.

To start Saturday in Oakland, "that's the goal right now. Obviously, it depends on how I feel."

But he didn't anticipate problems.

"Could he have made his start Tuesday? Yeah, I would think, probably," Russell said. "But it's just not anything we wanted to mess with. He should be fine. But with the off day [Monday], we just felt it was smarter to give him the extra rest."

Draft update

The Pirates are deep in negotiations with at least one top-10 draft pick, eighth-rounder Dace Kime. The 6-foot-4, 200-pound right-handed pitcher, from the same Defiance (Ohio) High that produced Los Angeles Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley and New York Mets starter Jon Niese, has a scholarship to the University of Louisville.

They also have opened preliminary discussions with Las Vegas, Nev., scholastic right-hander Nicholas Kingham, 6-5, 220, a fourth-rounder who has a scholarship to Oregon.

Third-round outfielder Mel Rojas Jr. of Wabash Valley (Ill.) College has not received an offer.

Buried treasure

• Reliever Jack Taschner refused his outright assignment to Class AAA Indianapolis and declared free agency.

• Russell on a rehabilitating Steve Pearce (ankle) and Charlie Morton (arm) in Indianapolis: "Steve's been doing pretty well. Feels good. Charlie I think is starting to get back on track. They're two guys that we know they can help us at this level. Each outing ... each step they take to get themselves ready to get back here is very encouraging for us."

• Asked before the game Saturday if he enjoyed interleague play, Russell said: "I should hate it 'cause we haven't won a game yet."

• In a driving rainstorm more than an hour before the game was scheduled to start, one player lingered along the rail and signed autographs: Today's Indians starting Cleveland pitcher Justin Masterson, who is scheduled to start today.

• Shortstop prospect Brock Holt of high Class A Bradenton sustained a torn MCL in his left knee and will miss six weeks minimum. Season-ending surgery is possible.

Chuck Finder: cfinder@post-gazette.com . Find more at PBC Blog .


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