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All-Star starters announced

Bill Brink 29 minutes ago

The starters for the AL and NL All-Star teams, as voted on by fans, were revealed tonight. There are no Pirates starting, but Andrew McCutchen might get the chance

Giancarlo Stanton is out after hand surgery and Matt Holliday might or might not be able to play as he returns from a strained quadriceps. They are both ahead of McCutchen in the fan voting, in addition to Bryce Harper. McCutchen is fifth, also behind Nori Aoki, who is on the DL because of a fractured leg.

According to the CBA, the manager -- Giants manager Bruce Bochy -- selects the roster replacement, but the starter comes from the player ballots. MLB.com further clarifies that the reserve who receives the most votes at the injured player’s position moves into the starting lineup. 


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Pirates 5, Indians 3

By Paul Zeise about 4 hours ago

Gerrit Cole is the Pirates ace and one of the best pitchers in baseball, but in this particular game he needed a little lift from his offense in order to secure yet another win.

But that doesn’t mean Cole wasn’t very good, again, because he was, it just took him a few innings to really find his best stuff and once he did he shut the lights out on the Indians.

The Pirates used a 5-run fifth to take control of the game and then let Cole take care of the rest as they beat the Indians, 5-3, before a crowd of 36,812 at PNC Park.

It was the second win in a row for the Pirates (47-34) and their seventh in nine games and they also improved to 14-10-3 in series this season.

Cole (12-3) became the first pitcher in the Majors this season to 12 wins and despite some struggles early, made yet another strong case to be the starting pitcher for the National League in the All-Star game.

He pitched 8 innings, gave up only five hits and three runs, struck out five and walked only one and 69 of his 106 pitches were strikes.

But things didn’t start out well for Cole as Carlos Santana and Brandon Moss singled to start the top of the second inning and then Santana scored the first run of the game on an RBI single by Michael Bourn.

Bourn then stole second and advanced to third when Chris Stewart’s throw to second was errant and then he gave the Indians a 2-0 lead on a single to left by Roberto Perez.

Cleveland added another run in the top of the third and led 3-0 after Jason Kipnis led off with a double, advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt and then scored on Michael Brantley’s RBI single.

It took five innings for the Pirates to get their bats going but once they got started, they erupted for a huge inning and flipped the script on the game.

Jung Ho Kang got the hit barrage started in the fifth with a single and then Pedro Alvarez pulled the Pirates to within 3-2 with a towering opposite field home run.

Catcher Chris Stewart singled and advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Cole and a single by Josh Harrison then Neil Walker tied the game, 3-3, with an RBI single that left the Pirates with two on and two out.

Andrew McCutchen then put a punctuation mark on the inning when he crushed a ball off the centerfield wall for two-run double that put the Pirates up 5-3 and also chased Indians starter Danny Salazar (7-4) from the game.

The Indians to Cole early but the outburst of runs came just as he had seemingly settled in and he retired the final 16 batters he faced.

Mark Melancon then pitched a scoreless ninth inning to earn his National League-leading 27th save.

Perhaps of bigger concern than any other development in this game for the Pirates was that outfielder Starling Marte had to leave the game with discomfort in his left side in the bottom of the 4th inning.

Marte was up to bat with two outs and nobody on and he swung and missed and then had to step out of the batter’s box as he held his side and was looked at by the Pirates athletic trainer.

He stood in for two more pitches but after a week foul ball, he had enough and he retreated back to the dugout and was replaced by Gregory Polanco, who promptly grounded out to end the inning.

Marte will be re-evaluated Monday.


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Huntington Speaks

By Paul Zeise about 6 hours ago

Here are a few quick notes from Neal Huntington’s chat with the media:

Taillon timetable: Pirates general manager Neal Huntington had his weekly chat with the media prior to Sunday’s game and among the many topics he discussed was the health and status of heralded pitcher Jameson Taillon.

Huntington said that Taillon, who will have surgery to repair a hernia this week, is likely going to need some time to recover but he wouldn’t rule out a September call up for him if all goes well.

“We will see how the recovery goes,” Huntington said. “It is two months-ish. I mean, we have been told it is roughly two months until he is ready to compete. We are always going to leave the door open [for Taillon to return for September] but I don’t want it to become a story that we are looking for him in September.”

Sadler ailing: Another pitcher on the mend is Casey Sadler, who is currently with Indianapolis, as he is on the disabled list with a right forearm strain that has hampered him since spring training.

Huntington said the Pirates will take a cautious approach to getting him back in the lineup but said that he is getting closer to being ready to return.”

“He is making progress,” Huntington said. “We are going to wait until he is symptom free to get him throwing again and sometimes that is sooner rather than later and our hope in this case is that it will be sooner.”

Polanco staying: Polanco’s average is down to .233 and he has, at times, struggled with consistency but Huntington said there are no plans to send him down to Class AAA to work on his hitting.

“We believe Gregory Polanco is going to be a quality Major League player but there are growing pains, there is an evolution for a young player,” Huntington said. “And [a demotion for him] hasn’t even been a conversation.”


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Sunday Pregame News, Notes and Lineups

By Paul Zeise about 8 hours ago

A very light session with the manager today. We will talk to the general manager a little later so I’ll add some of the highlights from that. But here are the news and notes from Hurdle as well as the lineups.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said that one of the ways the organization measures productive plate appearances is the statistic “pitches per plate appearance”, which is a measure of how many pitches on average a hitter sees when he bats.

The Pirates leader in that category is infielder Jung Ho Kang, who sees an average of 4.2 pitches per game.

And while he does not have enough at bats to qualify for the league leaders in that category, that number would put him in the top six in the National League (Joey Votto is first at 4.34).

“One of the ways, by our measure, you have a quality at bat is when see eight pitches or more,” Hurdle said. “There is nobody in the game with a 5+ per average so that shows how hard it is. You see guys with 4.2, 4.3 but that is about the tipping point, you don’t see a 4.6.

“[Kang] has a really good eye and is usually stubborn with his approach. And there is no hangover effect for him [after a bad swing] which is the sign of a good hitter, a confident hitter.”

Road to Recovery: Corey Hart went on the 15-day disabled list June 24 (retroactive to June 22) with left shoulder impingement but has begun his rehab assignment with Class AAA Indianapolis.

Hart has appeared in three games and has three hits in 12 at bats (.250 Avg) and has two home runs and four RBI and those are all good signs that he is on his way back according to Hurdle.

“We are going to continue to get him games,” Hurdle said. “We will try to get him some DH games, some first base games and then some back-to back-games. He has hit some homers and had some good swings.

“He feels good, he is getting some work, there is no urgency with it, we will take our times with this.”

Polanco sits: The Indians will start a right hander, Danny Salazar, Sunday but Hurdle still opted to sit lefty Gregory Polanco and instead used Josh Harrison in right field while Kang played third.

“We just thought it was a better matchup for us to try to win the game, with Kang at third,” Hurdle said. “[Salazar] is a bit of a reverse split pitcher and I didn’t want to ice Jung Ho by keeping him down too many days in a row.

“But also Polanco is stuck in a little 0-for-9 so we hope to slow him down and try to get him rolling again.”

Tougher market: Hurdle was asked if he thought the addition of the second wild card has changed the timetable for trading players with respect to the trading deadline since now more teams believe they have a chance to make the playoffs.

“I do believe that with the additional opportunity to get into the playoffs, teams are more hesitant,” Hurdle said. “They want to give it more time to wait and see. So you if you want to be one of those teams that go early, you better have some weight in your bag.”

LINEUPS

Pirates

Harrison - RF

Walker - 2B

McCutchen - CF

Marte - LF

Kang - 3B

Alvarez - 1B

Mercer - SS

Stewart - C

Cole - RHP

 

Indians

Kipnis - 2B

Lindor - SS

Brantley - LF

Santana - 1B

Moss -  RF

Urshela - 3B

Bourn - CF

Perez - C

Salazar - RHP

 


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Pirates-Indians Pregame: Happy Independence Day!

By Paul Zeise 1 day ago

Happy Fourth of July!!!

I hope you are able to spend time with your families and enjoy some good food and then sit down to watch some baseball...

Here are today’s pregame notes and lineups:

The Pirates traded minor league starter Clayton Richard to the Cubs Friday, which on the surface was not exactly huge news as he hasn’t pitched for the Major League team once this season.

However, below the surface that move could prove to be significant if the Pirates have an injury or two to the starting rotation because it is yet another blow to the organization’s starting pitching depth.

In fact, the Pirates starting pitching depth has gone from a strength to an area of real concern in a matter of a few months thanks to a rash of injuries.

As of right now, the next guy in line to start for the Pirates behind the five starters in the rotation and reliever Vance Worley is probably Radhames Liz, who was with the Major League team to start the season but was DFA’d May 25th after appearing in 11 games and failing to show any kind of consistency.

Beyond Liz the Pirates could look to some pitchers like Adrian Sampson and Chris Volstad, but they are all either unproven or to this point career minor leaguers.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle doesn’t think there is any reason to panic because the team has six capable starters on the Major League roster, but he does agree that the margin for error is far less than what it the organization had envisioned at this point in the season.

“No I still think we are in a place where we are covered,” Hurdle said when asked about the lack of depth. “If something were to happen here and we lost two starters that might change. We have lost our surplus, we had great depth at one point, now our depth isn’t as deep.”

The Pirates could have help in the form of Casey Sadley, who is only on the 7-day DL, but they have lost Nick Kingham, Jameson Taillon and Brandon Cumpton for the season and Tyler Glasnow is probably not a viable option for this year either.

<subhead>Liz improving<subhead>

Liz was not claimed by another club when he was DFA’d so he is back pitching with the Pirates Class AAA affiliate in Indianapolis and he has recently moved into the starting rotation.

He has made two starts so far June 26 against Syracuse (4 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 6 K) and then Wednesday against Colorado (5 IP, 1 R, 3 H, 7K) and Hurdle said he has heard nothing but good reports on his progress.

“His last two starts have been good,” Hurdle said. “His velocity has been good and these starts have been more in line with the numbers we saw in winter ball, and then you factor they are in AAA.

“But his overall command has been very good and the right steps are in place for him to find his way back, he just needs to continue to pitch and get innings.”

<subhead>Promise kept<subhead>

Hurdle said he obviously would rather have been able to keep Richard in the Pirates organization but when they signed him they told him they’d help him find his way back to the Majors and they have indeed delivered on that.

“It backs up everything we said to him and what we stand for,” Hurdle said. “We were going to do everything we could to help this man get back to the Major Leagues and we’ve done that.”

<subhead>Buried Treasure<subhead>

Hurdle was asked how seriously he takes All Star balloting and he said “I take it seriously, I take it very seriously. When I get my ballot, I want to vote for the guys I think will help [the National League] win the game.”. …He said there are many factors in who he chooses and yes, familiarity is one of them especially in cases of a player who has consistently been a nemesis to the Pirates “Believe it or not I voted for [Reds third baseman] Todd Frazier,” he quipped, “he was one of my first votes.”. …Hurdle said Pedro Alvarez has shown great improvement in his throwing accuracy in recent weeks. “Six or seven of the last eight throws he’s made have been right on the money to start double plays,” he said. …Neil Walker has been swinging a hot bat since being moved back to the second spot in the lineup and Hurdle said that’s where he is going to stay for the time being for obvious reasons. …Starling Marte made a great throw off the wrong foot to get Yan Gomes out as he tried to stretch a single into a double. Hurdle said that’s a play you can’t teach a guy to make who doesn’t have Marte’s natural ability. “He made it look so easy, he had a little rhythm, a little dance step, I think [famous dance school founder] Arthur Murray picked it up. He is very creative.”

LINEUPS

Pirates

Harrison - 3B

Walker - 2B

McCutchen - CF

Marte - LF

Alvarez - 1B

Cervelli - C

Polanco - RF

Mercer - SS

Locke - LHP

Indians

Kipnis - 2B

Lindor - SS

Brantley - CF

Gomes - C

Santana - 1B

Urshela - 3B

Moss - RF

Aviles - LF

Anderson RHP


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