Pirates Notebook: Grabow planning offseason surgery


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DENVER -- Pirates reliever John Grabow is pitching as well as at any point in his career, and he wants very much for that to continue.

This year and beyond.

Which is why, shortly after this season ends, he plans to have minor surgery to remove bone chips in his left elbow.

"Everybody's got them," Grabow said yesterday at Coors Field. "But I just want to get it cleaned out and move on."

Such a procedure would not cause him to miss any part of the 2008 season, including spring training. And, to his mind, it can only help.

Grabow missed much of spring training and opening month of this season because of the irritation those chips caused, and he was not effective when he returned. But he has been, without question, the Pirates' best out of the bullpen since the All-Star break with 13 scoreless outings and 19 strikeouts in his past 14 appearances. His past 47 batters have six hits.

Why?

His velocity is back up in the 94-mph range, keeping left-handers off his offspeed stuff. And his trademark changeup is giving right-handed hitters fits again.

"I've got my command back," Grabow said. "When I was struggling, I was walking guys or getting behind in the count. Now, I'm getting ahead, and that's making all the difference."

Grabow's latest perfect outing Wednesday was followed by nearly a week out of commission because the elbow flared up again. But he returned last night and retired his lone batter in the seventh inning.

Second-rounder shut down

The Pirates' recent history of injury trouble with drafted pitchers continues.

Duke Welker, a right-handed starter who was their second-round pick in June, has been shut down for the remainder of Class A State College's season because of pain in his right forearm. His next activity will come in the Florida Instructional League in September.

Brian Graham, the Pirates' director of player development, said an examination showed no damage to ligaments -- any pitcher's greatest concern -- and described the matter as minor.

"He actually wants to keep pitching," Graham said of Welker. "We want to be cautious."

Welker, 21, was 2-2 with a 2.35 ERA in seven starts for State College. He exited his most recent start Friday after one inning because of the forearm pain.

Snell of a line

This four-game set will not be as eventful as it might have been.

On July 18, Ian Snell was furious with an unnamed Colorado player, accusing him of stealing signs and threatening to "kill that dude." Although Snell later apologized to Rockies manager Clint Hurdle by phone, he was fined $2,000 by Major League Baseball for those remarks.

With Snell not pitching again until Friday in Houston, any addition to the drama is unlikely.

Or, as Colorado outfielder Brad Hawpe told the Denver Post, "I guess nobody is going to die now."

Buried treasure

Outfielder Xavier Nady was out of the lineup to rest his hamstring after three consecutive starts. He is expected to start the final three games of the series.

Matt Kata, fresh off an exceptional weekend of pinch-hitting in which he homered and hit a three-run double, was given a start at third base.

Despite the 96-degree heat in the afternoon, second baseman Freddy Sanchez, among the team's hottest hitters, spent nearly an hour on the field performing agility exercises.



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