07/30/12 8:08 PM ET
Bucs hope McDonald can solve recent woes
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
Cruz throws, working his way back to Pirates
CHICAGO -- Juan Cruz, such an important contributor as the Pirates' bullpen was establishing its reputation as the National League's best, is at least two weeks from being able to return and help in the push for a postseason berth.Cruz, on the disabled list retroactive to July 18 with inflammation in his pitching shoulder, on Sunday threw from a mound for the first time, about 20 fastballs to a standing catcher just to get himself reacquainted with the slope of the mound. Cruz played long toss on Monday and is scheduled for a regular bullpen session Tuesday of 25-30 pitches, throwing his entire repertoire. "Knock on wood, he responded well [to the Sunday workout]," pitching coach Ray Searage said. "The first time they throw a full side [session on the way back from injury], I like to keep it under 30 pitches." Although Cruz evidently is making steady progress, the rehab assignment foreseen for him by Searage would take at least until mid-August to complete. "I would like to see a Monday-and-Wednesday set, then back-to-back days," Searage said of the ideal rehab workload for a reliever. Cruz, 33, has a 1-1 record and has even picked up three saves in 37 appearances, with an ERA of 2.61. Well enough, but he didn't allow a run until his 13th outing of the season and entered June with an ERA of 1.45 in 20 games.
Josh Harrison remained on the bench Monday night, after going 2-for-2 as a late entry in Sunday's game in Houston gave him six hits in his last 13 at-bats. Neil Walker started Monday night's game one RBI shy of 200 for his career. This series in Chicago gives the Pirates one last chance -- for a spell -- to improve on their MLB-best record against sub-.500 teams: 35-14. Following these three against the Cubs, the Bucs will play 14 of their next 17 against teams with winning records.
"He'd be someone everyone would love having in this clubhouse. You see how he plays -- all out, with passion. And he produces pretty good, too."
-- Clint Barmes, on former Houston teammate Hunter Pence, who has been one of the outfield names being grinded by the Pirates' rumor mill on the approach to Tuesday afternoon's Trade Deadline.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.