Pirates Notebook: Bench involved early, often

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ST. LOUIS -- John Russell sent a rather strong message to the Pirates through his lineup card last night, inserting Eric Hinske in place of Brandon Moss in just the second game.

And no, the message was not to Moss, even though he went 0 for 3 in the opener, plus an abysmal throw from right field that allowed a run to score.

"We want to get our bench involved," Russell explained. "I'm going to try to get Craig Monroe and Ramon Vazquez in there in the next couple days, too. You hate to see anybody sit for an extended period. And we've said all along that we feel our bench is stronger than last year. We have good, versatile players. They're not just bench players."

Still, there might be more to it. Management has made known that certain positions on the diamond are not firm -- those of Moss, left fielder Nyjer Morgan and third baseman Andy LaRoche -- and it is possible or even likely that the bench players could be used for extended spells if needed.

As for Moss, he was making no excuses for that throw, which allowed a run to score in the eighth inning Monday after it bounced four times and wound up off line.

Did he lose his footing or grip?

"No, sir," he replied. "I just threw it right into the ground."

Minor starters set

Tony Watson, a promising left-hander, will open the season for the Pirates' minor league affiliates by pitching for Class AA Altoona tonight in Erie.

Why not one of two recent first-round picks, Brad Lincoln or Danny Moskos?

"Really, nobody should read anything into that," director of player development Kyle Stark said. "This is just how things lineup right now. And, honestly, Anthony is deserving."

Watson, 23, was 8-12 with a 3.56 ERA for high Class A Lynchburg last season.

The other top three affiliates open tomorrow: Jason Davis, one of the last cuts of spring training, will start for Class AAA Indianapolis, Matt McSwain for Lynchburg in Pedro Alvarez's professional debut, and Duke Welker for low Class A West Virginia.

Buried treasure

Zach Duke, making his season debut tonight, will be carrying a lot less to the mound after he got his hair cut yesterday, almost down to the scalp. "No real reason," he said. "Just changing it up."

• Reliever Tyler Yates still was kicking himself over Ryan Ludwick's late home run Monday. Yates said he was aware that 17 of 37 Ludwick's blasts last year came on the first two pitches he saw. "And I still threw it right to his bull's-eye."

• The dummy that pitching coach Joe Kerrigan used in spring training has made the trip to St. Louis. It might stay with the team all year.

• The only players with rookie qualifications are relievers Jesse Chavez and Donnie Veal, infielder Luis Cruz and catcher Jason Jaramillo. Veal and Jaramillo never previously played in the majors.



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