Lastings Miledge will open the second half of the season as the Pirates' starting right fielder.
By Dejan Kovacevic Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Lastings Milledge will open the Pirates' second half as their regular right fielder.
Manager John Russell said Thursday night, after the team's hourlong post-break workout at PNC Park, that Milledge's recent performance has convinced him to stop what had become a conspicuously imbalanced platoon with Ryan Church: Milledge is batting .276, Church .186.
"Lastings has earned it," Russell said. "It's not about Church. It's about what Lastings has been able to show, how he's handled it, and that he looks like he's ready."
Russell did not detail exactly how he will use both, and he surely will keep Church in the mix to a degree.
Russell conceded that one of his motivations with the platoon was to push Milledge, much as the team has done of late at shortstop by giving Bobby Crosby much of Ronny Cedeno's playing time. Although Church struggled throughout, Milledge not only performed well on the field but also remained a model off the field and never complained about the platoon.
Milledge entered the break on a .345 tear over his past 18 games, including two no-doubt home runs last weekend in Milwaukee, and he was swinging well enough that even some of his outs were getting scorched.
Any concern that could be lost over the break?
"I'm the same player," Milledge said with a smile.
• There is a chance that top catching prospect Tony Sanchez could play again this season for high Class A Bradenton, general manager Neal Huntington said, though it might be no more than the final week or two.
• Huntington also said that outfield prospect Starling Marte's setback in recovering from surgery on his left hand was no cause for alarm. The hook of the hamate bone was removed from Marte's left hand two months ago, and the procedure is not one that has long-lasting effects.
• All players attended the workout except reliever Evan Meek, given an extra day because of his All-Star participation.
• Main attraction of the workout was newly recalled journeyman catcher Erik Kratz, 30, getting hugs and handshakes all around for his late arrival to the majors. Russell said he expects to use Kratz "more often" than the previous backup, Jason Jaramillo, adding that Kratz batting right-handed will provide more of a contrast with Ryan Doumit, a switch-hitter who is more effective from the left side. Jaramillo is in the same category.
• Pitching prospect Jeff Inman, a right-hander with low Class A West Virginia, has been shut down by elbow discomfort.
• Nate Baker, the left-hander who threw the eight-inning no-hitter for West Virginia two weeks ago, was promoted to Bradenton.