Pirates Notebook: Iwamura out with leg injury
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CHICAGO -- Just when he was slowly starting to feel as if he were climbing from a protracted slump, Aki Iwamura suddenly started to feel a tightness in his right hamstring. He promptly sat himself down.
"Just a couple days," the Pirates' regular second baseman said in English while riding an exercise bike Sunday morning in the visitors' clubhouse at Wrigley Field.
Iwamura expressed distress at the timing of his injury. He walked twice Saturday, bringing his total times getting aboard to five -- four walks, one hit -- in his past 10 games for a .135 on-base percentage. He hit one ball well for a flyout at the right-field wall amid a 2-for-43 May start.
"With the numbers I have, I don't think I have the time to sit down and not play," he said through a translator, assistant trainer Toshi Nagahara. "[Saturday] I had two walks. As leadoff, I started doing my job better. The timing was bad for me to have this kind of injury. And it's frustrating."
The injury happened while he ran out his seventh-inning, double-play grounder Saturday, although he realized it was not disabled-list serious.
"I felt it when I ran down to first base when I hit that worst double play," he said. "The good thing is, I was able to stop before I was able to make it worse, which probably would have put me on the disabled list. It was very fortunate I was able to talk to the trainer ... and stop before I made it worse."
Manager John Russell has been addressing Iwamura's struggles for days because the second baseman is hitting .046 for May. The two walks Saturday ended an 0-for-22 stretch of plate appearances without reaching base safely, the primary job description of a leadoff batter. In Iwamura's absence Sunday, Russell used Lastings Milledge in leadoff for the third time this season.
"If it's two days, three days, four days, whatever. The main thing is, we don't want him to push the hamstring," Russell said.
Saturday, Iwamura worked a six-pitch walk in his opening at-bat, clubbed a pitch into the wind and to the right-field wall in his second, and walked to help produce a bases-loaded situation in the fifth.
"The last two games, I've seen some pretty good signs. Talking to him, it's unfortunate that his hamstring is tight because he was starting to do some things that were getting him headed in the right direction. So, hopefully, it's not too long. I really liked what I saw [Saturday]. He drove that ball to right, which the day before might have been a different story [a wind-aided home run]. He did work the count. So he's doing some better things."
Bryan Morris, one of the Pirates' top pitching prospects and the player management identified at the time of the Jason Bay trade as the key return, was promoted to Class AA Altoona Sunday after going 3-0 with a 0.60 ERA and 30 consecutive innings without an earned run to close his time at high Class A Bradenton.
On his Sunday radio show, general manager Neal Huntington said Morris could be in Class AAA Indianapolis by August "if he can sustain what he's doing. ... He's really made great strides."
Huntington also talked about Indianapolis' Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez pushing for promotions with Jose Tabata close behind, noting that the major-league Pirates should pay attention to them "knocking at the door."
Huntington added of Brad Lincoln's potential promotion, "We're a lot closer than we were four starts ago."
• Huntington also talked about an extremely cautious approach with Chris Jakubauskas and his concussion symptoms three weeks after the Pirates' pitcher was struck in the head by a line drive: "We're trying to get him to the point where he can ride a bike at more than a leisurely pace."
• Milledge went 1for 3 at leadoff with two RBIs and a walk. The Pirates are 1-2 when he leads off; his teams are 1-7.
Altoona reliever Jeff Sues, the Pirates' minor-league pitcher of the year in 2008, was placed on the minor-league disabled list because of a strained left intercostal muscle.
First Published May 17, 2010 12:00 am