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08/12/08 7:14 PM ET

Injured Pirates get closer to return

Bucs quintet progressing from variety of ailments

PITTSBURGH -- Still dealing with a slew of injuries to some of the team's most critical pieces, the Pirates open up a seven-game homestand without three of their four starting infielders.

Adam LaRoche, who has been on the disabled list since July 28 with a right intercostal strain, played his first rehab game for Class A Hickory on Monday. LaRoche went 2-for-3 with a home run and afterward, texted Pirates manager John Russell, saying he felt "very good."

LaRoche will suit up for the Crawdads again on Tuesday night and will be reevaluated after the game. Assuming there are no unforeseen setbacks, LaRoche will likely be with the club before its three-game set against the Reds concludes.

Moving to the next infield spot on the diamond, second baseman Freddy Sanchez remained out of lineup for the second straight day. Sanchez said that his bothersome right shoulder felt "OK," but hadn't improved much since aggravating it again over the weekend.

The discomfort, Sanchez said, is in the same place as it was back in the spring, though the second baseman said his right shoulder has not deteriorated all the way back to that point. Sanchez also reiterated that rest and therapy in the offseason should be enough to heal it back to full strength. Surgery is not expected to be needed.

Sanchez' middle-infield partner, Jack Wilson, too, will sit on Tuesday. Wilson, who has been bothered by tendinitis in his right shoulder, did not start any of the final four games on the Pirates' most recent 10-game road swing.

Both Wilson and Sanchez did take ground-ball practice with the team prior to the game and should be ready to return to the field within a few days.

"I don't want to push these guys to play and then tomorrow he comes in and says he can't play," Russell said. "I want to make sure that when they walk through the door, in their mind, they are ready to play rather than trying to come in and find out if they can play."

The only member of the starting infield actually in the lineup is Andy LaRoche, who is still dealing with the remnants of a remaining injury. The third baseman said that his bruised right thumb is "manageable," but good enough to make his second straight start.

To round up on the injury front, you'll have to head about two hours east to Altoona, Pa., where injured closer Matt Capps continues his rehab work. After throwing two innings with the Gulf Coast League Pirates, Capps is scheduled to pitch the seventh inning for the Curve on Tuesday. If all goes well, he will make another one-inning appearance for Double-A Altoona on Thursday.

After that, Capps is scheduled to join Triple-A Indianapolis. The 24-year-old right-hander has encouragingly had no setbacks in his return-to-pitch program after being diagnosed with bursitis in his right shoulder.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.