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06/12/10 8:10 PM ET

Wanted: Stopping thefts on basepaths

DETROIT -- Manager John Russell surely doesn't need to see the numbers to know how much success opponents have had running on his club this season. It hit a low point a week ago when, in a two-day span, the Giants and Cubs stole eight bases in nine attempts.

That has prompted Pittsburgh's coaching staff to once again highlight the issue on this road trip.

"We got to where obviously everybody knew what was going on," Russell said. "It's been addressed, and we've made some progress. We're going to have to continue to improve. It's not one of our strong suits right now."

Opponents have a 91.8 percent success rate stealing against the Pirates, who rank last in the Majors in that category. Just ahead of them are the Yankees, who have caught just 11.4 percent of attempted base stealers. The 56 stolen bases allowed by Pittsburgh rank third most, behind the Red Sox (67) and Giants (58). And since June 1, opponents have stolen 15 bases in 17 attempts.

Keep in mind that stolen-base numbers can be quite subjective, considering fault can lie with the pitcher or catcher. With Ryan Doumit behind the plate, 47 runners have attempted to swipe a base. Taking away attempts where Doumit never made a throw (that suggest the steal can be singularly blamed on the pitcher), he has still thrown out just two of 39. Following the same criteria, backup catcher Jason Jaramillo has thrown out three of 11.

On the other side, it's up to a pitcher to speed up his delivery with a runner on base and to pay attention to a runner on second. A lack of execution in both of those areas has been addressed recently by pitching coach Joe Kerrigan.

"Ross [Ohlendorf] occasionally gets a little slow," Russell said. "The back end of our bullpen, it's tough to speed those guys up because their pitches are very important."

Ohlendorf has allowed eight stolen bases in as many attempts, though the rotation as a unit hasn't been that much better. Opponents are 32-for-34 in attempts against the starters.

A family affair for Walker, Tigers' Kelly

DETROIT -- With about a dozen family members and friends in the Comerica Park stands on Friday, brothers in law Neil Walker and Don Kelly found themselves playing against each other on a Major League field for the first time.

Walker, whose older sister, Carrie, is married to the Tigers' Kelly, played third, while Kelly made a rare start in left.

"Not too many people can say they've played in the big leagues against some type of relative," Walker said. "That was really special. Who knows if we'll ever get the chance to do it again."

Said Kelly: "I think it was not only special for Neil and I, but for the whole family."

The two had some fun robbing each other, too, before the night was over. Kelly nearly fell into the stands as he made a sprinting catch on a foul ball Walker hit in the third. Not to be outdone, Walker made a sliding grab in foul territory to end Kelly's at-bat in the seventh.

"An eye for an eye yesterday," Walker joked on Saturday. "It was a shame that neither of us were able to prolong each other's at-bats."

The Pittsburgh-area products remain extremely tight, having always talked regularly while making the climb through the Minors. Kelly established himself as a big league utility player first, now having played parts of three seasons in the Majors. It wasn't until late May that Walker, a former first-round Draft pick, earned his first chance to step into an everyday role.

"I think it goes back to the way he finished last year," said Kelly, who hits with Walker during the offseason. "He finished up really strong, earned himself a promotion up to the big leagues in September. Especially what he's done this year -- going out, switching positions -- that's not easy to do, especially at the big league level."

When the Pirates asked Walker to move into a utility role this spring, he didn't have to go far to seek advice on how to learn new positions. That's because Kelly has made his mark doing just that. He has played every infield and outfield position at least once in the Majors.

"We talked nonstop, and we've continued to talk nonstop," Walker said. "Donny and I live it every day. We go through the grind together. We've learned a lot from each other."

Iwamura adapting to bench role

DETROIT -- Considering how poorly Aki Iwamura's season began, even the smallest achievements are at least signs of progress.

Since being told that he had lost his job as the team's starting second baseman, Iwamura has put together quality plate appearances more consistently than he did when playing every day. Iwamura drew two walks and was robbed of an extra-base hit at the fence on Friday while making his first start since May 30. In his seven pinch-hit appearances since being told he was moving to the bench, Iwamura has reached base four times.

"I think he's accepted the challenge that he's got to work to make sure that when he gets an opportunity, he's prepared," manager John Russell said.

Even still, Iwamura clearly remains expendable. He isn't expected to get his starting job back anytime soon unless there is some sort of injury to Neil Walker. And with the impending arrival of top prospect Pedro Alvarez, the Pirates will have to remove a position player sometime soon to make room.

The Pirates aren't likely to get any trade interest in Iwamura given how big of a disappointment the second baseman has been. But if the Pirates are dedicated to focusing on the future -- which Iwamura isn't going to be a part of -- there is always the possibility that the organization could release the infielder and eat the remainder of his $4.85 million contract.

"We'll have to make decisions as those moves are made," Russell said, when asked about Iwamura's situation. "When Pedro gets here, we'll have to sit down and figure out which direction we want to go. A lot of times, things seem to happen in the meantime that take care of that. If not, then we'll have to make a decision."

Worth noting

The Pirates wore the uniforms of the Pittsburgh Crawfords on Saturday as the Tigers paid tribute to the Negro Leagues. Detroit players donned Detroit Stars uniforms. ... Manager John Russell hasn't ruled out having Ryan Doumit catch the series finale on Sunday. Doumit hasn't been behind home plate since being hit in the head by a foul tip while catching last Sunday. ... Third baseman Pedro Alvarez came out after the sixth inning of Triple-A Indianapolis' game on Friday, though general manager Neal Huntington confirmed that Alvarez's early exit was not due to injury. Alvarez has played in all 62 of Indianapolis' games this season and was taken out because of a large Indianapolis lead.

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