The Pirates, who have made deepening their minor league system a priority, yesterday learned that system is even thinner than they had thought.
Not only did they find out State College players Cole White and Chris Simmons have been called to active duty by the United States Army, but they also had two pitchers from their Venezuelan Summer League affiliate suspended for 50 games each after they tested positive for a performance-enhancing substance.
- INDIANAPOLIS (51-56) beat Syracuse, 10-2. LHP Tom Gorzelanny (1-1, 3.27) allowed one run and five hits in five innings. LF Nyjer Morgan (.278) went 3 for 5 with a double and an RBI. 3B Neil Walker (.239) went 1 for 3 with a sacrifice fly and three RBIs. CF Andrew McCutchen (.282) went 2 for 5 with two RBIs.
- ALTOONA (47-58) lost at Harrisburg, 4-3. LHP Kyle Bloom (2-5, 4.12) allowed four runs, three earned, and seven hits in six innings. RHP Jeff Sues (4.54) pitched two scoreless innings of relief and allowed two hits. He struck out three.
- LYNCHBURG (46-58) lost at Salem, 7-4. LHP Tony Watson (6-10, 3.67) allowed six runs and eight hits in 62/3 innings. 2B Jim Negrych (.371) went 2 for 3 with a walk and an RBI.
- HICKORY (41-63) lost at Charleston, 8-1. LHP Mike Felix (4-4, 4.09) allowed two runs and four hits in five innings. 3B Matt Hague (.330) went 1 for 4 with a double and an RBI.
- STATE COLLEGE (9-25) beat Batavia, 4-3. RHP Ramon Aguero (1-5, 6.38) allowed three runs and three hits in 32/3 innings. 3B Jeremy Farrell (.339) went 2 for 4 with a double and an RBI.
- BRADENTON (16-12) was off.
"Obviously, we're disappointed," said Kyle Stark, the Pirates' player development director. "We're trying to add prospects."
It's not clear how long White and Simmons will be gone.
"Initially, we thought they'd be back for spring training," Stark said. "But now we're not sure."
The Pirates will retain the rights for White, an outfielder, and Simmons, a catcher.
The Venezuelan pitchers -- Roman Carrasco, 20, and Luis Figuera, 17 -- will miss the rest of this season and the early part of next season.
"Both guys were performing well," Stark said. "We were encouraged by their performances. We need to educate guys so they know what they're putting into their bodies."
Stark said Carrasco (7-1, 2.82 earned run average) and Figuera (6-2, 3.09) will resume pitching in the Pirates' system in 2009.
Simmons, a 41st-round draft pick last month, and White, the 42nd-round selection, were chosen from the United States Military Academy with the understanding they would be permitted to play professional baseball.
The Defense Department changed its policy a couple of weeks ago.
"Since they're the government, they can do that," Stark said. "We're still trying to get our hands around this [new] approach."
Simmons, batting .258 in eight games, will leave State College today. White, hitting .366 in 19 games, will leave a day or two later.
Stark said the Pirates will promote a catcher from Bradenton of the Gulf Coast League to State College because of Simmons' departure.
"With outfielders, we're fine [at State College]," Stark said.
No fracture for Barthmaier
Class AAA Indianapolis pitcher Jimmy Barthmaier, struck by a line drive on his right wrist Thursday night, did not sustain a fracture, according to X-rays taken yesterday. Barthmaier, listed as day to day, might be able to take his next pitching turn next week.
Center fielder Chris Duffy (inner ear infection) has been placed on Class AA Altoona's disabled list and sent to Bradenton. Stark said Duffy could be out another seven to 10 days. Altoona infielder Shelby Ford, the Pirates' third-round pick in the 2006 draft, was activated from the disabled list yesterday. He had been on the DL since July 12 because of a high ankle sprain.
The Pirates took their official 2008 team picture yesterday -- just days before non-waiver trading deadline Thursday. Will that picture still be accurate next Friday?
"It's something you can't worry about," manager John Russell said. "We'll just continue to put the lineup together and continue to go play."
John Van Benschoten, who starts for the Pirates tonight, allowed six hits, four walks and two earned runs in five innings in his start Monday in Houston. What can he take of a positive nature from that effort?
"That he got five innings in and, when he threw the ball over the plate, they didn't hit him," Russell said.