Pirates notebook: Hines Ward's appearance in pregame spotlight

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PNC Park turned into Hines' field briefly Thursday when recently retired wide receiver Hines Ward took batting practice and threw out the first pitch before the game against the Washington Nationals.

And from all indications, Ward might want to look elsewhere for a post-football career.

"All our young players, I tell them ... there's a job for them in the big leagues if they keep hitting fly balls and they can run," manager Clint Hurdle said. "It's at Wal-Mart."

Ward did not hit a batting practice home run -- as Sidney Crosby did in 2010 -- but Hurdle quickly came to Ward's defense.

"It's a bigger part of the park," said Hurdle.

Ward batted right-handed and Crosby left-handed.

"First day out, I don't know how much practice he was able to put in," Hurdle said. "He's going to have to be a top of the lineup kind of guy He's going to have to put it in play, get on base and go."

The event, Hurdle said, was a lot of fun.

"It was an honor for us to have him out here with all the great memories he's left up on this city and the footprints and the fingerprints he's put on the city of Pittsburgh," he said.

Bedard update

Hurdle said starting pitcher Erik Bedard, who left his start Wednesday early in the second inning because of back spasms, felt better Thursday but had little other information on his status.

Whether Bedard makes his next scheduled start -- Monday in Miami -- is a decision the team will make in the next two days, Hurdle said. If he is not ready, the team likely will use Brad Lincoln, who made a lengthy relief appearance Wednesday and has started games in the majors.

"He very well could be one of the guys at the top of the list that we discuss," Hurdle said.

Pitcher McCutchen called up

The Pirates placed closer Joel Hanrahan on the bereavement list Thursday, one day after the death of his grandmother. He will miss at least three games before he is eligible to return to the active roster.

The team recalled Daniel McCutchen from Class AAA Indianapolis to take Hanrahan's place on the active roster. McCutchen spent most of the 2011 season on the majors but was optioned to Indianapolis before the end of spring training with a few pieces of homework.

"I definitely feel a lot better now than I did," McCutchen said. "I've been working on a lot of things, throwing a lot of innings."

McCutchen has worked on throwing inside to left-handed batters, improving his fastball command and being more aggressive in the strike zone.

"We really sat down and talked to him," Indianapolis manager Dean Treanor said. "I feel that what I saw in spring and when he first got here, he wasn't using his fastball enough."

He was 2-2 with a 2.49 ERA in 211/3 innings with Indianapolis this season.

"He went down with a great mind-set," Hurdle said. "His velocity's picked up, the command's picked up. From the reports I got, all his pitches have sharpened up."

Injury updates

Right-handed pitcher Jeff Karstens (right shoulder inflammation) threw a 36-pitch side session Thursday afternoon but said he does not have a better idea when he could begin a rehabilitation assignment.

"Just shooting for short-term goals as opposed to trying to see when I'm coming back," he said.

Karstens said he threw mostly fastballs but mixed in a few changeups.

Chris Leroux (right pectoral muscle strain), who is on the 60-day disabled list, threw long toss at a 120-foot distance Thursday and said his arm feels stronger than before his injury. He said there is no rush in his return from injury, but he could begin throwing off a mound as soon as next week.


Staff writer Bill Brink contributed to this report. Michael Sanserino: msanserino@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1722 and Twitter @msanserino. First Published May 11, 2012 12:00 AM


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