Posted on: June 23, 2010 6:21 pm

Duke, top prospect Sanchez head to DL

Zach Duke The Pittsburgh Pirates will be without one of their starting pitchers for the rest of the month while a top prospect's season is in jeopardy.

Zach Duke will be placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained flexor pronator muscle, reports Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette . The move will be retroactive to June 17, making him eligible to come off on July 1. He is certain to miss at least two starts, so will likely come off a little later than the 1st.

The Bucs need a replacement starter for Saturday, but GM Neal Huntington said no decision has been made yet. The candidates include Dana Eveland and Charlie Morton, both currently in the bullpen for Pittsburgh and Triple-A hurlers Charlie Morton, Daniel McCutchen and Brian Burres.

Meanwhile, catcher Tony Sanchez, the No. 4 selection in the 2009 amateur draft, wil undergo jaw surgery that may knock him out for the rest of the year. He was hit by a pitch on the left side of his jaw on Tuesday, fracturing his jaw in two places. He will need his jaw wired shut, which will impact his nutritional intake. The team is unsure when he can return, but it will at the very least be an extended period of time that Sanchez is out.

-- Evan Brunell

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Category: MLB
Posted on: June 22, 2010 10:28 pm

Pirates stuck with Iwamura

Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Review-Tribune reports via Twitter that the Pirates, who designated second baseman Akinori Iwamura for assignment June 16, have been unable to trade him. Iwamura will report to Triple-A Indianapolis on Friday.

It's no surprise given Iwamura's lack of production (.182 and nine RBI in 54 games) and salary -- he was the Pirates' highest-paid player this season at $4.85 million. The Pirates acquired him from Tampa Bay last winter.

-- David Andriesen

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Category: MLB
Posted on: June 22, 2010 12:16 am

What are the odds?

Any Baltimore fans harboring dreams of a miracle should give up now. Even if they had a million chances, the Orioles wouldn't make the playoffs this year.

That's the conclusion of a postseason odds report compiled by baseballprospectus.com, which ran a computer simulation of the remainder of the 2010 season a million times. The Orioles were the only team that came out with a zero percent occurrence of making the playoffs. The Royals, Indians, Mariners, Nationals, Astros, Pirates and Diamondbacks each were under 1 percent.

In the crowded American League East race, the Yankees won the division 49 percent of the time, the Red Sox 26 percent and the Rays 21 percent. The best bet to reach the postseason? The Rangers, who made it in 81 percent of the simulated seasons.

-- David Andriesen

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Posted on: June 19, 2010 2:38 pm

Scandal in Pittsburgh: pierogi races fixed

First wrestling, and now mascot races are fixed? Is there nothing sacred in this world?

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette buries the lead in a story about a potato-head getting fired for criticizing his employer on Facebook . Yeah, we all know posting criticism of the people who give you money is stupid.

While Andrew Kurtz and his mom whine about him being fired for being stupid, Kurtz kills the America dream of gambling on sporting events.

The Pirates have had a rip-off of Milwaukee's sausage race since 1999, using local delicacy pierogi instead of sausages. Well, Kurtz has played all four of the pierogies -- Oliver Onion, Cheese Chester, Jalapeno Hannah and Sauerkraut Saul. After each race through PNC Park, the Pirates update the standings on the scoreboard, but Kurtz, already fired, spills the beans on the dirty underbelly of mascot racing.

"They try to keep it close," Kurtz tells the newspaper. "They don't want a pierogi to fall too far behind. So if Jalapeno Hannah is two, three games behind, they kind of want her to win, so they pick the fastest runner out of the four runners that are racing that night and give Hannah to that one."

And like Ric Flair, Kurtz admits to using foreign objects to influence the final outcome. Kurtz said the Jalapeno Hannah costume is equipped with a purse and "you can whack the other pirogies," Kurtz admits.

His testimony may be taken with a grain of salt, because he was recently let go by the Pirates. Kurtz, like most 24-year olds, has a Facebook page. And like most 24-year olds with a Facebook page, he's not too bright about what he posts on it.

After Pirates president Frank Coonelly extended general manager Neal Huntington and manager John Russell, Kurtz turned to his computer and wrote, "Coonelly extended the contracts of Russell and Huntington through the 2011 season. That means a 19-game losing streak. Way to go Pirates."

Within four hours, Pirates mascot coordinator Dan Miller called Kurtz and fired him.

"I told him I didn't mean anything by it, and he was like, 'Well, why'd you put it up?' I said, it was just an opinion. But he took it negative and talked to his boss. And then they wanted me to turn my uniform in," Kurtz told the newspaper, as if there was a positive way to spin "that means a 19-game losing streak."

Kurtz's mother talked to the paper too, as if besmirching the good name of mascot racing wasn't embarrassing enough, he has his mother fighting his battles for him.

"Since when, in this country, are you not allowed to state an opinion? Well, here is my opinion: The Pirates came through again and let go one of their biggest fans and dedicated workers," Mary Kurtz told the newspaper.

Mrs. Kurtz obviously isn't a lawyer and doesn't understand he's not being punished by the government for his opinion, it's by a public company that doesn't like its employees disparaging it in public.

Kurtz apparently had another strike on his record, but in the end, maybe he did learn a valuable lesson.

"Don't post personal thoughts about the boss or whoever I work for," Kurtz said. "Just keep quiet."

-- C. Trent Rosecrans

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Category: MLB
Tags: mascots, Pirates
Posted on: June 17, 2010 4:18 pm
Edited on: June 17, 2010 4:19 pm

Huntington, Russell with Pirates through 2011

John Russell The Pittsburgh Pirates may be in the midst of its worst performance since GM Neal Huntington and manager John Russell took over, but president Frank Coonelly isn't giving up.

Amid speculation that Russell was on the hot seat , Coonelly announced that both Huntington and Russell had their contracts extended through 2011.

The extensions happened in spring training, when Russell's option was exercised and Huntington's had an extra year tacked on. Coonelly has resisted clarifying contract statuses in the past, but felt the need to do so amid whispers a change would be forthcoming in management.

"While we have demonstrated in the past that a contract will not prevent us from making a change if one is appropriate and thus contract status truly is irrelevant, we will confirm that during the offseason we exercised the club's 2011 option on JR's contract and added a fourth year to Neal's contract," Coonelly wrote in a statement via e-mail, reports the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review .

"We did so because we believed that they were successfully implementing the organization's vision of building a baseball organization that could compete for championships on a consistent basis," Coonelly added.

While Russell's contract status would not inhibit a firing if the team felt the need to, it's clear the Pirates have no interest in severing ties with Russell.

"While dismissing the manager when the club is performing poorly is common in this industry, it is not the appropriate response in this case," Coonelly said. "JR's contract status has played no role in this determination. "

Despite the poor play thus far (23-42 entering play Thursday) the team has graduated several top prospects to the bigs recently. Pedro Alvarez joined Brad Lincoln and Jose Tabata on Wednesday, forming a core along with Andrew McCutchen the team hopes will push Pittsburgh back to respectability -- soon.

-- Evan Brunell

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Posted on: June 16, 2010 10:01 pm

Solid debut for Alvarez

Pedro Alvarez White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen joked that there was so much hype surrounding Pirates prized prospect Pedro Alvarez he might walk the rookie to get to the next hitter.

That didn't happen Wednesday night, but the Alvarez Era got under way with the debut of what some call the best power hitting prospect the Pirates have had since Barry Bonds.

Alvarez didn't collect his first hit in the Pirates' 7-2 loss, but he walked and scored a run, going 0-for-2. He struck out swinging in his first at-bat against John Danks.

The pressure will be high for Alvarez to generate some offense and some buzz for the miserable Pirates, who have lost 10 in a row. But at least he can share the burden with the other young guns that have arrived in Pittsburgh of late. Top pitching prospect Brad Lincoln arrived last week, as did outfielder Jose Tabata. Tabata accounted for the only other Pirates run Wednesday, hitting his first home run in the eighth.

-- David Andriesen

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Posted on: June 16, 2010 4:29 pm
Edited on: June 16, 2010 4:36 pm

Pirates DFA Iwamura

While the Pedro Alvarez era begins in Pittsburgh tonight, the Akinori Iwamura era has ended as unceremoniously as the Chris Duffy era did.

Iwamura was designated for assignment, MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch reports via Twitter , to make room for Alvarez.

Iwamura, acquired in a trade with the Rays this offseason, was hitting .182/.292/.267 with two home runs and nine RBI in 54 games. Alvarez will play every day at third base, the Pirates have said, and Andy LaRoche has been working out at second base, where he could take Iwamura's spot.

-- C. Trent Rosecrans

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Posted on: June 15, 2010 11:48 pm
Edited on: June 15, 2010 11:56 pm

Pirates' Russell on the hot seat?

A 23-41 start isn't what the Pirates hoped for in a season that would graduate its best prospects to play alongside youngster Andrew McCutchen.

And yet, that's exactly what happened.

The Pirates were supposed to be better than ever in Year 3 of general manager Neal Huntington's regime, but even with a few new exciting players, it's more of the same.

It makes sense, then, that Huntington's future has been called into question with the team along with manager John Russell. Huntington and Russell are on pace for the worst winning percentage in the three years the two have been together in Pittsburgh. And everyone knows that the manager's head rolls first.

Pirates president Frank Coonelly said the team is not holding internal discussions about Russell's future with the team, but FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal says that's not what he's heard.

There's already been two dismissals this season: Baltimore sent Dave Trembley packing for interim manager Juan Samuels while Kansas City dispatched Trey Hillman and brought in Ned Yost.

If Russell and his squad don't turn it around once heralded prospect Pedro Alvarez arrives Wednesday , Russell may find himself in the unemployment line.

-- Evan Brunell

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Category: MLB
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