Six-man rotation a possibility in September
Russell considering giving another starter some extra looks
PITTSBURGH -- Manager John Russell said Saturday that the idea of a six-man rotation in September has been broached with interim pitching coach Ray Searage. For now, though, there has been mere discussions -- not a decision -- on the topic.
The one known at this point, as confirmed by Russell, is that the Pirates do not plan on shutting down any member of their current rotation because of an escalating innings count. Last year, Ross Ohlendorf stopped pitching two weeks before the end of the season because his innings total was so much higher than it was the year before.
Therefore, going with a six-man rotation next month would be dictated more by a desire to get another starter -- likely top prospect Brad Lincoln -- some extra looks, instead of by a need to give extra rest to the other five starters.
Lincoln, who was sent back to Triple-A after beginning his Major League career with a 1-4 record and a 6.57 ERA in nine starts, is a definite candidate to be called up when rosters expand on Sept. 1. On Saturday, he was placed on the Minor League disabled list with neck soreness/stiffness (retroactive to Friday), but he is expected to only have his next start delayed. Lincoln should be back on the mound by September.
Charlie Morton is the other starter who could get a look. The right-hander struggled immensely in fewer than two months with the Pirates, and he has had an up-and-down season with Indianapolis since. He missed his past scheduled start due to minor elbow discomfort.
If the Pirates don't go with a stringent six-man rotation, Russell said he could still spot-start a callup by skipping one of the other starters' turn. There is also the option of using a starter in a bullpen role.
"We'll see," Russell said. "We'll sit down and look at the schedule and days off and travel. We'll look into it because we do have some starter candidates to come up, and we have to decide how to use those guys."
Doumit again starts over Milledge in right
PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates' insistence in keeping Ryan Doumit in the lineup continues to cost Lastings Milledge.
With Doumit in right field again on Saturday against the Mets, Milledge has now started just one of the team's past six games. Milledge's absence in Saturday's lineup was more perplexing than usual, given that the Mets were sending a left-handed starter to the mound.
Doumit went 0-for-1 with a walk in a rain-shortened 5-1 loss.
Milledge has batted .315 against southpaws this season, while Doumit's mark against lefties is sub-.200. Doumit has much more success -- and shows more power -- when facing right-handed pitching, which justifies having him start over Milledge against righties.
Manager John Russell didn't speak at length about Milledge's decreasing playing time, saying only that Milledge is healthy and that Doumit has been swinging well enough to warrant such chances. Two of Doumit's 10 home runs have come in the past three games, though he doesn't have any other hits in his past six contests (22 at-bats).
Milledge has hit safely in his past 11 starts, though 10 of his 12 hits during that span have been singles.
While Doumit might be improving defensively in the outfield, he has still had his hiccups. Still, if Doumit can get more comfortable in right and improve his offensive production over the next month, he very well could increase his value heading into the offseason.
Jaramillo, Gallagher committ to winter ball
PITTSBURGH -- Though general manager Neal Huntington recently said that he hoped more of the organization's players would consider committing to winter ball, it looks unlikely that many of those participants are going to come from the Pirates' big league roster.
"Winter ball, you usually look at guys who missed time -- guys who are in the early stages of development who haven't played a lot," said manager John Russell. "We don't have too many of those guys. We're going to have a lot of guys who are going to have a lot of at-bats and innings."
As a result, expect most of this year's winter ball participants to come from the Minor League levels.
Catcher Jason Jaramillo and reliever Sean Gallagher, both of whom spent time on the Pirates' roster this year, are planning on playing, Russell said. Jaramillo spent the first four months of the season with Pittsburgh, yet he collected only 81 at-bats in a reserve role. He is now playing regularly in Triple-A.
As part of the annual African American Heritage Day at PNC Park, the Pirates and Mets wore Negro League throwback uniforms on Saturday. The Pirates wore Pittsburgh Crawfords jerseys, while the Mets donned New York Cubans uniforms. ... Andrew McCutchen has hit 12 home runs this year, and not a single one has come with a runner on base. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last player to start a season with 12 solo shots was Jason Bartlett, who racked up 14 to begin 2009. Before Barlett, Rafael Furcal (13 in '03) held the distinction. ... The Cardinals have not yet named starters for their three games at PNC Park next week. The Pirates lined up Ross Ohlendorf, Paul Maholm and Jeff Karstens for the series.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.