PITTSBURGH -- Right-handed pitching prospect Diego Moreno has been suspended by the organization for unprofessional conduct. General manager Neal Huntington did not go into detail about the particular incident that prompted the action, but he labeled Moreno's conduct as "untrustworthy."
"We have a certain standard that we expect of our players," Huntington said. "Certainly at the Double-A level, we need to be able to trust our players. We've addressed it and addressed it aggressively. Hopefully, he'll learn from it and move beyond it."
Moreno was promoted to Double-A in late May after starting the season with a 1.37 ERA in 16 relief appearances for Class A Bradenton. Moreno has made seven appearances for the Curve and has only been scored upon in two of them. He last pitched on July 11.
The organization's decision to suspend a Minor League player for unprofessional conduct is not unprecedented. Last August, the Pirates handed pitcher Bryan Morris a similar suspension that lasted 11 days. Though it came during a terrible season for the right-hander, Morris responded well and has rebounded to go 7-4 with a 2.97 ERA in 19 starts between high Class A and Double-A this year.
The Pirates are hopeful that Moreno follows suit.
"He can go one of two directions," Huntington said. "He can do what Bryan did and hopefully learns that what he did is inappropriate. Unfortunately, some players never learn. This is a challenge to our staff to help this young man get better and avoid this type of behavior moving forward."
Donnelly has walked in Kratz's shoes
PITTSBURGH -- When Brendan Donnelly entered to pitch the sixth inning of Saturday's game, he understood the sense of accomplishment that battery mate Erik Kratz had to be feeling as he played in his first big league game.
It was eight seasons ago that Donnelly, closing in on his 31st birthday, made his Major League debut after a Minor League climb that spanned 10 years, 11 different organizations and one independent league stop. That's why when Donnelly greeted Kratz in the Pittsburgh clubhouse on Friday, he made sure to tell the catcher: "I was a 30-year-old rookie, too. And I'm still kicking, so there is still hope."
Donnelly's career has been evidence that a late start doesn't mean it's going to turn out to be a brief one. Since making 46 appearances as a rookie with Anaheim in 2002, Donnelly has accumulated another 302 with six organizations. He has won a World Series and appeared in an All-Star Game.
"I know when I first got called up to the big leagues, it was such a feeling of accomplishment that after working so hard for so long, I finally got a chance to play in the big leagues, which was my goal from the onset years and years ago," Donnelly said. "Anyone that puts that much time in, I've been there and I understand. I know the frustration of putting in time year after year and going through the Minor Leagues that long. To stay with it that long, you have to be fully committed to making it here."
In the same way that Kratz has credited his wife, Sarah, for helping support his family as the catcher chased his big league dreams, Donnelly talks now about being able to toil in the Minors for so many years because his wife, Rhonda, helped the couple live paycheck to paycheck.
"It never crossed my mind to quit. I never wanted to quit," Donnelly said. "I know guys that have had to quit when it seems too far away. There has to be a great support group. There have to be sacrifices and help along the way to survive in the Minor Leagues that long."
"The feeling for accomplishment for him has to be huge," Donnelly added. "If the world falls apart tomorrow -- and that's not going to happen for him -- then he's achieved that goal. No matter what happens from here on out, he's going to be able to look back and say, 'I made it.'"
Bucs working on dealing Penn to Japan
PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates are in the process of selling the rights of Triple-A pitcher Hayden Penn to the Chiba Lotte Marines club in Japan. General manager Neal Huntington noted that some final details are all that are needed before the move becomes official.
Penn has been placed on Triple-A Indianapolis' temporary inactive list.
It was the Marines that made the initial inquiry about Penn, and when the right-hander found out about the club's interest through his agent, he made it clear to Pittsburgh that he wanted the chance to go. The Pirates, who had the option of refusing Penn's request, instead reluctantly agreed.
"The money was such that he felt it was important for him to be allowed this opportunity," Huntington said. "Part of us wanted to say, 'No.' But as we look forward to the 2011 club, while there were some things that we were really intrigued by, it was tough to stand in this young man's way. He felt like this was a tremendous opportunity for him."
Though Penn was putting together a decent season down in Indianapolis, he is not atop the organization's Minor League depth chart. Furthermore, the fact that Penn has no Minor League options meant that if he didn't make the team out of Spring Training next year, Penn could be lost anyway.
Penn began the season in Pittsburgh, though that stay lasted a brief 2 1/3 innings. Penn allowed eight runs on eight hits and three walks in those three games. Working as a starter in Triple-A, Penn went 4-4 with a 4.68 ERA, 56 strikeouts and 23 walks in 65 1/3 innings. He was named Indianapolis' pitcher of the month after posting a 1.89 ERA in six starts.
The Pirates are also currently in discussions with another Japanese club that has interest in Triple-A reliever Vinnie Chulk. Those talks are ongoing, though Chulk, too, has been placed on the inactive list.
Prospect Sanchez should return in '10
PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates remain optimistic that top catching prospect Tony Sanchez will be able to return to the field before the end of the Minor League season.
"If everything goes well, then he could see action the last couple weeks of the season," general manager Neal Huntington said. "Tony had such a great first half that we want to try and keep the momentum going. He's in good spirits and he's going to fight through this."
Sanchez's jaw is still wired shut from the surgery he had in late June, and Huntington said that the No. 4 overall pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft has lost some weight as a result of not being able to eat solid foods.
Even if Sanchez is unable to play again this season, he will be ready to participate in the organization's fall instructional league. The Pirates are also considering sending the catcher to winter ball to make up for the time missed this summer.
Other injury updates:
-- Right-hander Chris Jakubauskas (right hip flexor strain) is just beginning baseball activities and long toss again. Jakubauskas, who was initially on the disabled list recovering from a concussion, has been shut down with this injury since July 1.
-- Steve Pearce (patella tendinitis) is still recovering from the plasma injection that he had in his left knee earlier this month. He is slowly resuming basic activities.
-- Outfield prospect Starling Marte is expected to start swinging a bat early this week. He has been shut down since July 6 after suffering a slight setback with his surgically-repaired left hand. The Pirates are not concerned about there being any long-term effects from this or the surgery Marte had in May to remove his left hand hamate bone.
-- Brian Friday (ankle) is three games into his rehab assignment with high Class A Bradenton. He is expected to return to Triple-A Indianapolis this week.
Double-A Altoona scored 10 times in the ninth inning of its game against Harrisburg on Saturday to earn a wild 18-15 win in the longest nine-inning game (four hours, 33 minutes) in franchise history. The Curve hit five home runs in the game and sent 15 hitters to the plate in the ninth. ... With two hits in Friday's win, Curve outfielder Gorkys Hernandez extended his hitting streak to 16 games. He has hit .400 since the start of the month. ... Charlie Morton picked up a win for Triple-A Indianapolis on Saturday despite allowing 11 hits and five runs (four earned) in 5 2/3 innings. Morton walked two and struck out two in his 100-pitch outing.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.