Pirates notebook: New leadoff hitter gives Reds a big boost

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The Cincinnati Reds' biggest move this past offseason was adding a leadoff hitter who was once considered a possible trade target for the Pirates.

Center fielder Shin-Soo Choo has filled a void in the Reds' already potent lineup this season, and manager Dusty Baker is more than pleased with his production.

"It's been a long time since we've had a legitimate leadoff man that could hit and get on," Baker said. "I just hope he keeps doing what he's doing until everybody gets hot around him and we really start rolling."

The Reds acquired Choo, 30, in an offseason trade with the Cleveland Indians and are paying the South Korean native $7.38 million in his final year of team control. This Scott Boras client entered the three-game series with the Pirates hitting .371 with a .511 on-base percentage.

"They were looking for, like many clubs this winter, somebody to put on top, in front of their three-hole hitter to get on base more," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "That was kind of a vacuum for them last year."

The Pirates looked at Choo ahead of the trade deadline in 2012 but ultimately decided the acquisition cost -- and his salary -- was not worth it. The team promoted Starling Marte from Class AAA Indianapolis, and he has owned the leadoff spot since.

The Reds traded major league outfielder Drew Stubbs and top shortstop prospect Didi Gregorius as part of a three-team deal to acquire Choo.

The Reds won the National League Central Division in 2012 and are the favorites to repeat. With Choo, a dangerous lineup is all the more potent.

"He's the perfect guy for this team," Baker said, "and the perfect team for him."

Irwin likely to start today

Pitcher Phil Irwin likely will make his major league debut today in a spot start, taking the place of injured starter Wandy Rodriguez.

The Pirates did not make a roster move Saturday, but they brought Irwin to Pittsburgh as a "taxi squad" roster exception, which allows a player to work out, but not dress, with the major league team.

The Pirates have 24 hours from Irwin's arrival to make a roster move.

Rodriguez said Saturday he is not starting, although Hurdle said the team has not made a decision about his starter today.

"There's a couple reasons why you don't want to make a decision until [today]," Hurdle said. "You can't list a pitcher that's not on your roster, number one. Then, if you do that, you have to make a roster move the day before you have to, number two."

Rodriguez said he is improving and expects to make his next scheduled start Friday.

"I can throw, I can run, I can do everything, but, in my follow through, I feel it right here," Rodriguez said as he pointed to the back of his left knee.

He likely will avoid a trip to the disabled list, which means someone else will come off the roster today when Irwin is added.

Injury updates

Charlie Morton (Tommy John surgery) threw two innings in an extended spring training game Saturday, and Francisco Liriano (fractured right humerus) will begin his rehabilitation assignment Monday with Class A Bradenton. Jose Contreras (Tommy John surgery), who is signed to a minor league deal, also start pitching Monday for Bradenton. ... The Pirates placed minor league pitcher Kyle McPherson on the seven-day disabled list with right forearm tightness.

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