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Pirates Pirates Report: 7/29/01

Sunday, July 29, 2001

Compiled by Robert Dvorchak

TODAY'S GAME

Astros vs. Pirates, 1:35 p.m., PNC Park. TV: WCWB; Radio: KDKA-AM (1020) and Pirates Radio Network. Wade Miller (12-5) starts for the Astros, Todd Ritchie (6-10) for the Pirates.

NOTEBOOK

A rumor out of New York yesterday had the Pirates getting in late on the Rey Ordonez trade sweepstakes. It's possible the Pirates did ask about the Mets shortstop but acquiring Ordonez is highly unlikely. By the way, the trading deadline is not midnight Tuesday. It's 4 p.m. Tuesday. All deals must be concluded by then. The midnight deadline is printed in a "help book" provided to the media by Major League Baseball, but that time is incorrect.

While yesterday's day/night doubleheader was the first for the Pirates in Pittsburgh, they did play a day/night doubleheader in Houston's Astrodome Aug. 10, 1968. A 7-4 win in the second game gave the Pirates a split that day. They lost the first game, 16-3. Starter Steve Blass got just one out. In the first inning, he yielded five hits, a walk and five runs (three earned). What does Blass remember about that game? "Absolutely nothing," he said. "Apparently I blocked that one out." Understandable. Blass that season finished 18-6, including seven shutouts, with a 2.13 ERA. He had two seven-decision winning streaks and pitched six of his shutouts in a nine-start stretch. "I remember a lot about that year but nothing about that one game," he said.

Once the trading deadline passes Tuesday, what's next for new Pirates General Manager Dave Littlefield? He'd like to begin evaluating the Pirates' minor-league system firsthand. "So I can put a face with a name," he said. Littlefield also wants to evaluate the minor-league staff firsthand. "You'd rather see people in a working environment as opposed to talking to them on the phone [in the off-season]," Littlefield said. Barring postseason involvement, all Pirates minor-league teams will be finished with their seasons Sept. 5.

Terry Mulholland, who has been traded twice on July 31, figures it won't happen this year because he has been on the disabled list for five weeks. Even though he'll probably be activated by Tuesday, he doesn't have enough time to show he can pitch well after being out with a broken left index finger. "I enjoy playing in Pittsburgh in front of my friends and family," said Mulholland, who's from Uniontown. "It's a nice warm and fuzzy feeling, but that doesn't put a [World Series] ring on your finger. I'm 38 years old. I'd like to play this game five more years and take my chances [at getting a ring]. But it's no secret this organization has a little bit of a mountain to climb before we can seriously consider [being in] World Series contention." And if Mulholland would get traded this season or next? "I wouldn't shut the door on returning to Pittsburgh," he said.

Todd Ritchie has a chance today to erase the memory of his start in Chicago last Tuesday night in which he allowed 12 hits and eight runs in four innings. "I expect more from myself than that," he said. "My job is to keep the team in the game. Eight runs in four innings? It's hard for the team to recover from that. That's embarrassing for me." Ritchie had pitched at least five innings in 31 consecutive starts since July 18, 2000. "All my pitches were up," he said. "I didn't hit my spots at all. I didn't feel that comfortable out there. No excuses, though. I got my butt kicked. That's the way it goes. But I've had three or four really bad starts this season, and that's what's really rocked my season. That's what's most disappointing to me."

Bronson Arroyo, who went seven innings and gave up four runs on seven hits in the first game starter, was sent back to Nashville and his roster spot was filled by reliever Marc Wilkins. McClendon said Wilkins has been "throwing the ball outstanding," hitting 95 to 96 mph with his velocity and throwing strikes. "We all know if Wilkie's healthy he can help us," McClendon said. Wilkins, who was demoted after an earlier stint with the Pirates, drove up from Nashville to join the club for the second game. Wilkins was 4-1 with a 4.75 ERA and one save in 32 appearances for Nashville. He recently went through a stretch where he was unscored upon in 15 consecutive outings covering 19 innings.

Much has been made of the drama Mike Williams adds to his close situations, such as loading the bases Friday night before striking out Jeff Bagwell and Lance Berkman. A lot of those comments come from Williams and McClendon, who shows some unusual facial expressions when Williams gets into trouble and then extricates himself. "He's a quality major league pitcher," McClendon said. "He's definitely one of the most underrated closers in the game. I'll certainly run him out there against anybody."

Derek Bell is still experiencing quite a bit of pain from his strained right hamstring and will have a magnetic resonance imaging test Monday in an effort to determine the extent of an injury that has kept him on the disabled list. Bell went on the 15-day disabled list on July 13 and has not played a game since July 3.

MINOR-LEAGUE REPORT
FRIDAY'S RESULTS

NASHVILLE (51-54) won, 4-0, vs. Fresno. Eric Moody (4-3) pitched a complete game, six-hit shutout. RF Alex Hernandez was 2 for 4 with two RBIs.

ALTOONA (46-59) lost, 5-0, vs. Binghampton. Terry Mulholland (0-1) lost in a rehab start, giving up two unearned runs on two hits with one strikeout in the one inning he worked.

LYNCHBURG (63-71) spilt a doubleheader vs. Potomac, winning 4-2 and losing 4-2. In the first game, Mike Cheney (2-3) won in relief of John Grabow, who went 4 1/3 innings and gave up one run on six hits. .

HICKORY (67-69) lost, 8-1, vs. Charleston (W.Va.). Starter Mike Connelly (8-4) lost, pitching seven innings and allowing three runs on seven hits.

WILLIAMSPORT (25-12) won, 9-6, at Batavia. Ian Oquendo (1-0) allowed one run in six innings and won in relief of starter John VanBenschoten, who pitched two perfect innings with one strikeout. .

BRADENTON (11-17) lost to the Rangers, 10-4. David Beigh (0-2) was rocked for eight runs on four hits in 1 1/3 innings. He walked five and struck out two. RF Rajai Davis was 2 for 4 with two runs scored.

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