Tyler Yates was breathing deeply -- and, more important, throwing a baseball -- after some highly encouraging news.
He sought and received a second opinion on his sore right elbow from Dr. James Andrews, the noted orthopedist in Birmingham, Ala., and the result yesterday was as positive as can be: The ligament is strong, and the primary issue is a strained flexor tendon, not a major concern. That affirmed the opinion of the Pirates' medical staff.
The word was enough to clear Yates to resume light throwing yesterday after a week's worth of setbacks. If that continues to go well, he will begin a minor league rehabilitation assignment soon.
"It's good to know it's going to be OK," Yates said. "It's a matter of how it feels now, how quickly we can move."
Yates has not pitched since May 15.
It could be quite some time before another reliever, Craig Hansen, returns.
What he learned two days ago, after a weeklong battery of intricate tests on his ailing neck and upper back, is that the nerve that sends signals to two key muscles in those areas has stopped firing, effectively rendering those muscles ineffective.
What he still does not have is a clear remedy.
"Just rest," Hansen recalled the doctors telling him. "Let it get better on its own, see where it is in four weeks."
In the interim, Hansen is not permitted any exercise with his right arm, which will make for a significant rehabilitation period even once he is cleared.
Thanks to a huge advance sale, the Pirates filled PNC Park for SkyBlast last night -- as they invariably do -- with an overflow crowd of 37,167 that marked the first sellout since the April 13 home opener. The fireworks were mixed with the country music of the Zac Brown Band.
The event coincided with the Penguins and Red Wings opening the Stanley Cup final in Detroit, but sales were into standing-room-only category earlier in the week.
• Center fielder Nate McLouth, whose 1-for-25 slump is one of the worst of his career, was benched, along with first baseman Adam LaRoche. "It's been a struggle for Nate, but he's a guy we're going to count on tremendously," manager John Russell said. Both will play today.
• Catcher Ryan Doumit considers himself lucky to have two friends with whom to discuss the fractured scaphoid in his right wrist: McLouth and former Pirates utilityman Doug Mientkiewicz each had similar issues early in their careers. "They both came all the way back and have no side effects," Doumit said. "That makes me feel good."
• Paul Maholm will try to rediscover his early-season consistency when taking the mound today. Two of his past four starts have seen him give up seven runs, including a season-worst four-inning outing Tuesday in Chicago. "He just needs to get ahead in the count," Russell said. "That's the big thing for Paul."