Pirates Notebook: Rogers recalled; Chacon likely to start

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It will not be a starter, but a reliever, coming to the Pirates from Class AAA Indianapolis.

And, in all likelihood, it will be Shawn Chacon who becomes the new fifth starter.

Brian Rogers, owner of a 1.35 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 20 innings, will fly today to meet the team in St. Louis and be available for the game tonight against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium.

"I'm so excited," he said last night by phone from Buffalo, N.Y., where he learned of his promotion shortly after Indianapolis' 4-2 loss. "I've just gone out there and made my pitches. Nothing special. But it's gotten the job done."

Management's choice of Rogers to take the staff vacancy created by Marty McLeary's demotion is a clear sign that Chacon will become the fifth starter to replace Tony Armas and pitch Saturday in Cincinnati. Chacon has a 2.84 ERA in 15 relief appearances.

Rogers' recall -- he spent 10 games with the Pirates late last season and had an 8.31 ERA -- also should satisfy manager Jim Tracy's concern about having a reliever to replace Chacon in late-inning situations. That is precisely the role Rogers filled in Indianapolis, including two saves.

The Pirates had given strong consideration to promoting one of three Indianapolis starters -- John Van Benschoten, Bryan Bullington and Sean Burnett -- but Van Benschoten and Bullington, the top two candidates, each had rough outings recently.

Van Benschoten, who will take his regular turn in Indianapolis' rotation tonight in Buffalo, sounded yesterday as if he were focusing solely on his pitching.

"I'm feeling great," he said. "I've reached the point where I don't think about anything other than just dominating a game. That's what I'm looking to do every time out there. No concerns about the health or anything."

He is 3-3 with a 2.47 ERA in eight starts, and there are other impressive numbers, too: He has struck out a staff-high 31 batters, and his average of 1.24 walks and hits per inning is the lowest of the rotation.

From a material standpoint, he is back up to 92 mph on his fastball, where he was pre-surgery, and he has become increasingly efficient with his sinker.

"I've been using the sinker on 2-0 counts, 3-1, whatever, because I've got that much confidence in it," he said. "It's been a big pitch for me."

Wilson a free agent

As of 1 p.m. yesterday, when Craig Wilson cleared waivers, any team could sign him for the prorated portion of Major League Baseball's minimum salary of $380,000.

As of late last night, the Pirates were not among the teams that called Wilson's agent, Steve Hilliard.

Wilson, 30, was released late last week by Atlanta after batting .172 with a home run and two RBIs. Because Wilson cleared waivers, the Braves must pick up the bulk of his one-year, $2 million contract, while any team that signs him is responsible only for the minimum wage.

The Pirates, who have one of the weakest offensive benches in the majors, have $4 million left to spend, as allotted by ownership.

Buried treasure

Masumi Kuwata, the Japanese pitcher whose right ankle was severely sprained in spring training, has completed three bullpen sessions and one live batting practice while rehabilitating in Bradenton, Fla. There remains no timetable on when he might be assigned to a minor-league affiliate.

Shane Youman, Indianapolis' starter last night, skipped his previous turn because of a strained muscle in the back of his left shoulder. It was not related to the shoulder trouble that shut him down in winter ball.

MINOR-LEAGUE REPORT
Monday's results

INDIANAPOLIS (25-18) lost at Buffalo, 4-2. LHP Shane Youman (1-4, 4.91) allowed one run and four hits in five innings. He struck out four and walked three. DH Brad Eldred (.500), in his first game since being demoted by the Pirates, went 2 for 4 with a strikeout. SS Brian Bixler (.336) hit his second home run and went 1 for 3 with a walk. CF Rajai Davis (.289) went 2 for 4 with two doubles.

ALTOONA (19-21) lost at Akron, 8-4. RHP Alay Soler (1-1, 3.70) allowed four runs in 3 2/3 innings. CF Andrew McCutchen (.181) hit his fourth home run, an inside-the-the-park shot to center field, and went 1 for 5 with three strikeouts. 3B Neil Walker (.296) went 2 for 4.

LYNCHBURG (17-21) won at Frederick, 10-2. LHP Kyle Bloom (4-3, 4.72) allowed one run in five innings. RF Brad Corley (.196) hit his third home run and went 2 for 5 with a double and six RBIs. C Steve Lerud (.255) hit his first home run and went 2 for 5 with two RBIs.

HICKORY (16-25) lost to Kannapolis, 5-3. RHP Mike Crotta (2-2, 4.97), the Pirates' 17-round draft pick last year, pitched a no-hitter through 7 1/3 innings. He was lifted one out later and charged with two runs on two hits. He struck out four and recorded 14 ground-ball outs. C Kristopher Watts (.284) hit his third home run, 2B Cameron Blair (.289) his first. Each went 2 for 4.

 


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