Pirates Notebook: Cleveland series selling slowly

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MINNEAPOLIS -- The Pirates have been pushing Major League Baseball for a decade to make the Cleveland Indians their annual rival in interleague play, but sales for the upcoming series at PNC Park are not shaping up to help make the case.

Only about half of the available tickets for the three-game series June 23-25 have been sold, with the first two games below 20,000, the third below 30,000. The team would not divulge specific numbers, but it did acknowledge that no game is on pace for a sellout and that plenty of seats in prime locations remain available.

PNC Park's capacity is 38,362.

To try to push sales while encouraging that the crowd will be comprised more of Pittsburghers than Clevelanders making the Turnpike trip, the Pirates are offering a $3 discount in three seating categories -- outfield box for $17, bleachers for $12, outfield grandstands for $10 -- as well as a Pirates cap to wear to the games.

The Pirates also plan to ask fans to wear black and gold all through the series.

In the Indians' previous two visits to PNC Park, the three games in 2001 drew 110,000, and the three in 2003 drew 100,964. All but one of those six games were sellouts. In the Indians' six games at Three Rivers Stadium, the smallest crowd was 37,513, that during the inaugural series in 1997.

The Pirates and Indians each entered action yesterday last in their respective divisions.

Moss getting chance

Outfielder Brandon Moss, benched for four games in light of his 4-for-28 June, is expected back in the lineup this afternoon for the series finale against the Minnesota Twins.

"Brandon's been working on a few things with Donnie, and we expect he'll get better," manager John Russell said, referring to hitting coach Don Long. "He's had a setback, but he got out of one before."

Still, expect to see plenty more of Delwyn Young in right field than previously. He impressed as a bench man with seven pinch-hits in 19 at-bats, but he also is batting .369 in his 17 starts.

Buried treasure

• Reliever Tyler Yates has been sent to Bradenton, Fla., where he will rehabilitate for two weeks without throwing while the team continues to try to determine the source of his right elbow pain.

• Another reliever, Donnie Veal, was used as a starter yesterday for Class AAA Indianapolis -- two innings, one run, three walks -- but that was solely because the team elected to go with a bullpen approach to the second game of a doubleheader.

• Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire, on .429-hitting catcher Joe Mauer, whose average is the highest in 15 years for any player beyond 150 at-bats: "Let's talk about .500. He's climbing closer to that than he is to .400."



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