Leroux's roster status put on hold until June
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Pirates reliever Chris Leroux said the MRI on his injured right arm was worse than team doctors initially anticipated, which prompted his placement Wednesday on the 60-day disabled list.
Leroux said the injury -- which the team called a strained right pectoral muscle -- happened in a spring training relief appearance Tuesday night in Philadelphia. He said it occurred on a pitch to Phillies outfielder John Mayberry Jr., who reached first on a fielding error.
"It probably got a little numb, because it was so painful," Leroux said. "I just stopped feeling it."
Leroux finished the inning, came out for a second, but was pulled three batters in after failing to record an out.
Leroux said he will not be able to throw for four to six weeks but hopes to return by June.
"Fresh and ready to go," he said. "Ready to help a team that's hopefully contending."
Team doctors initially believed the injury was a grade-one strain, but the MRI revealed a grade-two strain, meaning the muscle tear was more significant.
The silver lining in Leroux's injury is that it allowed the Pirates to add Juan Cruz to the 40-man roster without the risk of losing a player to waivers. Leroux is out of options, and, had he not made the 25-man roster, he would have been subject to waivers.
With Leroux on the 60-day disabled list, that decision will be delayed.
The opening day battery of Erik Bedard and Rod Barajas was the Pirates' 14th different opening day battery combination in the past 14 seasons. The Phillies, meanwhile, trotted out Roy Halladay and catcher Carlos Ruiz for the third consecutive season.
Francisco Cordova pitched to Jason Kendall on opening day in 1998 and '99, but since then no pitcher-catcher combination has appeared more than once on opening day for the Pirates. In that span, they have used batteries such as Zach Duke and Ronny Paulino in 2007 and Oliver Perez and Humberto Cota in '06.
Bedard and Barajas are new additions this season, but both add a veteran presence to the clubhouse. Now 33, Bedard pitched opening day for the Seattle Mariners in '08 -- his first year with the organization -- and in '07 for the Baltimore Orioles.
"He's a craftsman," manager Clint Hurdle said of Bedard. "He pays attention and he has that air about him. There's a fierce competitor inside Erik."
He got the start Thursday due to a strong spring, experience and an injury to A.J. Burnett, who was pegged to be the No. 1 starter.
"It's always exciting getting the first one out of the way," said Bedard, adding it was nice to pitch again on opening day.
Barajas, 36, replaces Ryan Doumit, the team's starting catcher the past four seasons.
"He's seen a lot of things in the game, so there's not too many 'ah-ha' moments for Rod," Hurdle said.
But, even with his experience, Barajas sought out backup catcher Michael McKenry at the start of spring training to learn as much as possible about the team's pitching staff.
"We had a special relationship from the get-go," McKenry said. "He came up, put his arm around me the first day and started asking me questions about the staff --'What does this guy like to do in this situation? How does this guy like to go after hitters?' "
• Jason Grilli, signed late last season, will be the setup man for closer Joel Hanrahan to start the season, Hurdle said.
• Nate McLouth was the first player off the bench this season, when he entered the game to a rousing applause in the eighth inning as a pinch-hitter for reliever Chris Resop. He struck out, however, against Halladay.
• The Pirates will play their Class AA minor league club in Altoona next year. No date is set, but it will be before the regular season begins for either team.
First Published April 6, 2012 12:01 am