ARLINGTON -- Zach Duke may not be ready to throw his scheduled side session on Wednesday, and if he doesn't, the left-hander is likely headed to the disabled list.
The elbow stiffness that forced Duke to skip his start on Tuesday is progressing slower than anticipated, manager John Russell reported. If Duke is unable to throw a side on Wednesday, he will not be cleared to start on Saturday, as initially anticipated. That will force the Pirates to come up with a spot starter for their second game in Oakland.
General manager Neal Huntington named four starters -- Daniel McCutchen, Brian Burres, Dana Eveland and Charlie Morton -- who would be under consideration to take Duke's spot in the rotation next weekend if he remains sidelined. Eveland is the only one of that group currently on the Pirates' 25-man roster. McCutchen is already scheduled to pitch on Saturday, so he'd be able to stay on his normal schedule if he were called up.
All indications are that Duke's injury is entirely muscle-related, meaning that there is no ligament damage. Duke tried to pitch through similar discomfort in 2007 and ended up missing nearly three months. As a result, the team plans to be extra cautious this time around.
"We want to make sure we take care of the muscle and let that heal properly and get back strong enough not to put him in harm's way," Huntington said. "He and we do not want to relive [what happened in 2007]."
Iwamura optioned to Triple-A
ARLINGTON -- Unable to find an interested trade partner, the Pirates optioned second baseman Aki Iwamura to Triple-A Indianapolis on Tuesday. Iwamura is scheduled to join the club on Friday.
The Pirates designated Iwamura for assignment last Wednesday in order to clear a roster spot for third baseman Pedro Alvarez. At the time, general manager Neal Huntington said the team's first priority was to trade Iwamura so that the established infielder could hook on with another Major League club.
The Pirates were willing to pay nearly all of the remaining $4.85 million due Iwamura to do so, too.
However, the Pirates did not find any substantial interest in Iwamura and now will try to help the second baseman get back on track in the Minors.
Iwamura began the season as the team's starting second baseman before being benched in late May. He hit .182 with nine RBIs in 165 at-bats with the Pirates this year.
Bucs deciding what to do with Morton, Pearce
ARLINGTON -- General manager Neal Huntington said the team is still working through determining the next course of action for both right-hander Charlie Morton and first baseman Steve Pearce, both of whom are currently on rehab assignments with Triple-A Indianapolis.
Morton (right shoulder fatigue) has made three starts for Indianapolis so far, and the Pirates have not decided yet if he will make a fourth. Morton, who last pitched on Saturday, is a candidate to pitch for Pittsburgh this Saturday if Zach Duke is unable to take his normal turn in the rotation.
Though Pearce (sprained right ankle) remains with Indianapolis, his ankle is, by all accounts, fully healed. As a result, Huntington said that he anticipates Pearce coming off the disabled list before the Pirates leave Texas on Thursday. The only question now is whether Pearce will come back to the big league club or stay with Indianapolis where he can play more regularly.
On Tuesday, Huntington also provided injury updates on four pitchers whom the organization initially thought might be ready to contribute at the Major League level before the end of the season:
Left-hander Neal Cotts: Cotts was progressing ahead of schedule in his return from Tommy John surgery until a right hip injury sidelined him recently. Cotts addressed the injury with surgery, but now complications from that procedure will keep Cotts out for the rest of the year.
Right-hander Tyler Yates: Yates was also rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, but he was shut down two weeks ago because of soreness in his right elbow. A visit to Dr. James Andrews revealed inflammation in the elbow, meaning that Yates has to sit out for another month. As a result of this setback, Yates is doubtful to return this year.
Right-hander Jose Ascanio: Ascanio's return from right shoulder surgery is going a little slower than expected, though Huntington confirmed there is nothing alarming with the timetable. Ascanio is throwing side sessions now and is expected to begin a rehab assignment in mid to late July. If there are no setbacks, the Pirates anticipate Ascanio being ready to compete again in mid to late August.
Right-hander Craig Hansen: Hansen, who has been out for more than a year with a nerve issue near his neck, has been shut down for the last two weeks due to elbow discomfort. He is expected to resume throwing again soon, though there is no timetable for his return.
Bucs have 10 under contract from '10 class
ARLINGTON -- The Pirates have now signed 10 picks from their 2010 First-Year Player Draft class after coming to terms with right-hander Bryce Weidman (14th round) and outfielder Adalberto Santos (22nd round).
Weidman went 4-6 with a 2.20 ERA in 13 appearances (82 innings) for Southwestern Oregon. He struck out 82 and walked 15.
Santos, who has already joined the Pirates' short-season affiliate in State College (Pa.), hit .336 with 15 doubles, 10 homers and 36 RBIs in 56 games as a senior at Oregon State earlier this year. He transferred to Oregon State after batting .520 as a sophomore with New Mexico Junior College in 2007.
Injuries hitting Pirates prospects
ARLINGTON -- Pirates prospect Brock Holt will miss the remainder of 2010 after being diagnosed with a medial collateral ligament sprain and a meniscal tear in his left knee. Holt sustained the injury when he collided with a teammate trying to make a play in the field.
Holt is scheduled to have surgery, and the Pirates are optimistic that the surgeon will find the MCL to be intact. Regardless, Holt will have to wait six weeks post-surgery before he can put weight on the knee. It will then be a four-month process until he can return to full strength.
Holt, who was a ninth-round selection in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, was hitting .351 with 12 doubles and 27 RBIs in 47 games with high Class A Bradenton before the injury. Though Holt played second base in college, the Pirates were using him primarily as a shortstop this year.
"[He has a] great feel for the game," general manager Neal Huntington said. "[He] makes a pitcher work. [He] has an understanding of the strike zone. [He] has an understanding of how to play the game. [He made a] very good initial impression his first full season out."
In other Minor League news:
Bradenton catcher Tony Sanchez was taken to the hospital on Tuesday after being struck in the face by a pitch. A review of the CT scan showed that there might be two small fractures on the left side of Sanchez's jaw. According to Huntington, Sanchez was on his way to Tampa on Tuesday night to see if there would be a specialist immediately available to give a second opinion. The Pirates won't know if surgery will be necessary until after that visit.
Sanchez was the Pirates' first-round Draft pick in 2009. He had already missed time this month when he was struck in the head by a pitch and suffered concussion-like symptoms.
High Class A right-hander Hunter Strickland has been sidelined with tightness in his throwing elbow. Strickland, who was acquired in the Adam LaRoche trade last July, is scheduled to undergo additional tests to determine the severity of the injury. Strickland made eight starts for low Class A West Virginia before being promoted to Bradenton. In four appearances for the Marauders, Strickland is 2-1 with a 4.50 ERA.
Outfielder Cole White has rejoined the short-season State College Spikes after a near-two-year absence serving in the military. White was drafted in the 42nd round of the 2008 Draft after graduating from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He became one of five players affected when the U.S. Army decided to require cadets pursuing professional sports careers to first complete two years of active duty. White left the Spikes on July 26, 2008, to do so.
Bobby Crosby started at short on Tuesday for the fifth time in the past six games. In addition to wanting starting shortstop Ronny Cedeno to show more consistency with his play and his emotions, manager John Russell said he likes the veteran leadership Crosby provides playing next to rookies Pedro Alvarez and Neil Walker. ... Russell will likely vary his designated hitter over the next six games, but don't expect Alvarez to assume that spot. Russell said he had "little to no interest" in taking Alvarez away from third base, where he continues to develop defensively. ... The experiment of using Ryan Doumit as a first baseman so he can take a day off from catching appears over. Doumit never felt all that comfortable at the position, and the Pirates seem hesitant to use him there anymore as a result.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.