Pirates Notebook: Russell unlikely to have pitcher bat eighth

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Imagine some early evening this season when PNC Park public address announcer Tim DeBacco reads the Pirates' starting lineup.

"Batting eighth, pitcher B," you might hear. "Batting ninth, center fielder Nyjer Morgan."

Strange?

Likely won't happen, either.

It is interesting, however, that two other National League Central Division teams are using lineups in which the pitcher bats eighth and a position player bats ninth.

Milwaukee began this season using newcomer Jason Kendall in the nine-hole. St. Louis, as has been manager Tony La Russa's wont frequently the past several seasons, uses a position player in the nine-hole.


Minor-league report
Saturday's results
INDIANAPOLIS (7-3) beat Norfolk, 4-3. RHP John Van Benschoten (2-0, 2.92) allowed three runs and six hits in six innings. He struck out four and walked one. LHP Sean Burnett (0.00) pitched a perfect ninth for his second save. LF Kevin Thompson (.276) hit his first home run, went 2 for 3 with a double and threw out a runner at home. CF Andrew McCutchen (.216) went 1 for 2 and was hit by pitches twice. RF Steve Pearce (.214) and 3B Neil Walker (.206) each went 1 for 4, Pearce hitting an RBI double. 1B Craig Wilson (.125) went 0 for 4.

ALTOONA (3-6) lost at Reading, 5-2. RHP Yoslan Herrera (0-1, 5.73) allowed five runs and five hits in five innings.

LYNCHBURG (3-5) beat Wilmington, 6-3. RHP Mike Crotta (2-0, 4.76) allowed three runs and six hits in five innings. SS Brian Friday (.240) went 2 for 4 with a triple and RBI.

HICKORY (7-3) won at Kannapolis, 14-1. RHP Dustin Molleken (1-0, 0.75) allowed one run and six hits in six innings. He threw two wild pitches and committed three balks. SS Jose De Los Santos (.303) went 4 for 6 with a triple.


Kendall has thrived. Through yesterday, he was 14 for 33.

Cesar Izturis and Aaron Miles, who split duty batting ninth for St. Louis, haven't enjoyed similar success. Through Friday night, they were a combined 7 for 34.

The Brewers and Cardinals have gotten off to good starts this season, though.

"The idea behind it is to try to get as many people on base for your third and fourth hitters," said Bob Brenly, a broadcaster with the Chicago Cubs and former manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks. "I'd guess that over the course of 162 games you're probably a little bit ahead, but the seventh hitter can make the last out, too."

Which means the pitcher leads off the next inning. So maybe it's academic, but would Pirates manager John Russell ever use the ploy? Maybe bat Morgan ninth and Nate McLouth first?

"I can't foresee us doing that," Russell said. "I think the makeup of our lineup is more conducive to the way we have it rather than having a position player bat ninth.

"It's a thought, but I like the way our lineup matches up. I like the positioning of our guys. We have some flexibility. We need the middle of our lineup to start doing some things. That would definitely help."

Conditioner pays off

PNC Park ground crew members spread 31/2 tons -- 140 50-pound bags -- of drying conditioner on the infield dirt after a heavy downpour in the top of the sixth inning Friday night.

"The most I've ever put on," said Manny Lopez, PNC Park's director of field operations who also has conditioned the fields in Bradenton, Fla., for 15 years.

"We scraped it all off [yesterday] morning," Lopez said. "The field's perfect."

No timetable for Wilson

Russell said there's "no definitive date" for Jack Wilson, on the disabled list with a strained left calf, to begin a rehabilitation assignment with Class AAA Indianapolis.

"It won't be in the next four or five days," Russell said.

Morgan seeks some answers

Morgan had a one-out single in the third Friday night, but was promptly caught stealing when he overslid second base. It wasn't the first time that happened to Morgan in his brief major-league career.

"I'm trying to figure it out," Morgan said. "I've got to get used to the dirt up here. These are better playing surfaces than in the minor leagues. They're more pristine surfaces. I need to go to the lab and figure it out -- maybe slide earlier. It's kind of frustrating when you take your team out of a rally. You feel like you're letting the boys down."

Tough start for Powell

Outfielder Pedro Powell, who led the Carolina League in stolen bases the past two seasons, is having a tough time getting rolling with Class AA Altoona. He's on the disabled list because of an ankle injury.

Curve second baseman Shelby Ford, the Pirates' third-round draft pick in 2006, missed five Curve games because of a hip flexor but returned to the lineup Friday night. In Altoona's 8-4 win at Reading, Ford had two hits, including a triple, and scored two runs. Ford did not play yesterday in a 5-2 loss at Reading.

A rare thing

The Pirates' 1-0 victory Friday night was their first when scoring one or two runs since the season finale in 2006 when they also beat Cincinnati, 1-0. In between, the Pirates were 0-41 when they scored two runs or less.



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