Pirates Notebook: LaRoche still bugged by back
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Andy LaRoche refuses to use his creaky back as an excuse for his 0-for-14 start or those three early errors.
But yesterday, when the Pirates' regular third baseman again was out of the starting lineup for the home opener in favor of Ramon Vazquez, he acknowledged he continues to receive treatment for it.
"If it was keeping me from doing anything, I wouldn't be out there," LaRoche said, grunting as he raised a foot on the locker stool to adjust his uniform pants. "I just have to keep after it. I get treatment, get rubbed down ..."
INDIANAPOLIS (1-3) beat Toledo, 3-2, on an RBI double by 3B Neil Walker in the 14th inning. Walker (.368) went 2 for 6 with a walk. RHP Daniel McCutchen (0-0, 3.60) allowed two runs and three hits -- one home run -- in five innings. He struck out seven, walked three and hit a batter. RHP Chris Bootcheck (0.00) pitched two perfect innings of relief and struck out four. Nineteen of his 27 pitches were strikes. RF Garrett Jones (.316) hit his first home run and went 3 for 5 with a walk. CF Andrew McCutchen (.278) went 1 for 5 with two walks and a steal.
ALTOONA (0-4) was off.
LYNCHBURG (3-1) beat Potomac, 5-1. LHP Chi-Hung Cheng (0-0, 0.00) pitched four scoreless innings and allowed two hits. He struck out one, walked two. RHP Dustin Molleken (0.00) pitched three scoreless innings of relief and struck out four. 1B Matt Hague (.375) and 2B Jose de los Santos (.267) each went 1 for 4 with an RBI. 3B Pedro Alvarez (.176) went 0 for 4 and is hitless in his past 12 at-bats.
WEST VIRGINIA (0-3) was off.
LaRoche missed a week in spring, including the opening of Grapefruit League play, because of back spasms that flared from the protruding disk he first felt two years ago with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He admitted at the time he had failed to follow his offseason exercise regimen for the back, but he now does so diligently.
As for his struggles ...
"I'm feeling good up there. It's just not going the way I want. Whether it's hit hard or soft, it's right at them. It'll even out. Last year was something where I was switching up my stance and trying to do too much. Now, I'm still relaxed, feeling good, just not hitting them where they aren't."
Manager John Russell, without mentioning LaRoche's back, expressed confidence.
"We're not panicking. We're not losing trust or faith," Russell said. "We just want Andy to continue to work through it, and we're fortunate to have people on our bench who can spell guys. If that's a couple days here or there, that's what we'll do."
Few could have imagined shortstop Jack Wilson would have his number and name called yesterday, given how his previous game at PNC Park went, with the crowd spontaneously standing and roaring in September for what it thought would be his final at-bat in Pittsburgh.
But there he was yesterday before the 7-0 victory against Houston, hearing the loudest introductory cheer.
"It's unexpected, but I'm happy to be here. Definitely happy," Wilson said. "I'm excited to be out there again and hear them say, 'No. 2, Jack Wilson' over the PA system. It's special to me, being here this long, wearing the same uniform. It really is."
Nate McLouth rammed hard into the center-field fence on Miguel Tejada's first-inning double and stayed down for a few minutes before remaining in the game to go 1 for 4.
"No big deal," McLouth said. "Just got the wind knocked out of me."
The Pirates updated the health of minor league pitchers Bryan Morris and Jimmy Barthmaier, and each will miss extensive time: Morris' right shoulder injury, diagnosed as having significantly restricted range of motion, will keep him out four to six weeks. Barthmaier's right elbow injury, diagnosed as a strained flexor mass, will keep him out a month.
Morris, one of the system's top pitching prospects and part of the Jason Bay trade, had been part of Class A Lynchburg's rotation. Barthmaier, a member of the 40-man roster, was in Class AAA Indianapolis' rotation. Yoslan Herrera was promoted from Class AA Altoona to take Barthmaier's place.
• The Penguins' appearance in the Stanley Cup playoffs has forced four changes in the Pirates' television schedule: The games tomorrow, Friday and Tuesday have been removed, and the afternoon game Thursday has been added.
• Jeff Karstens pitched a simulated game after the game and remains slated to make his season debut Thursday.
• Guy Buzzelli Jr. was recognized posthumously with the Pride of the Pirates award after years of service to the Pirates Gold Club sales team. He died in February at age 46 after being diagnosed early in life with muscular dystrophy. "Guy was an incredible inspiration," team president Frank Coonelly said.
First Published April 13, 2009 10:57 pm