Matt Diaz On Board; Ascanio And Tabata Reappear

Day Three of the Winter Meetings…the Rule 5 Draft will be tomorrow (Thursday)
Today, the Pirates added another player to their 40-man roster.  Matt Diaz is an outfielder who was drafted by the Rays in the 17th round of the 1999 draft.  He reached the major league level for the first time in 2003, but played in only 14 games for the Rays over the 2003 and 2004 seasons, and went 5-for-30 at the plate.  The Oregon native was released by the Rays in February 2005 and a few days later was claimed off waivers by the Orioles, then signed by the Royals the next day.  His 2005 season was shortened by injury, but he did hit .281 in 34 games for the Royals.  The Royals traded Diaz to the Braves after the 2005 season, and he remained in their organization for the next 5 years.  Diaz played full-time in 2006 and 2007, but a left knee injury prevented him from playing for most of the 2008 season.  He was back in full swing in 2009, when he hit .313 with 13 homers and 58 RBI for the Braves.  An infected thumb limited Diaz again in 2010.  He was able to play in 84 games for the Braves, and hit .250, with 7 homers and 31 RBI.  Diaz will turn 33 in early March.  He’s expected to play in right field for the Pirates.

Cheering for Pirates’ players and friends in Wednesday’s winter league action:
VENEZUELAN LEAGUE
Leones del Caracas  7,  Navegantes del Magallanes  0  —  Corey Hamman
had a better outing tonight than he did yesterday.  He pitched 2 innings, taking the mound with a runner on second and no outs in the 7th.  Hamman gave up a single and a sacrifice fly, to bring in one run (charged to the previous pitcher), then another single and a double play.  In the 8th, Hamman worked around a single to keep Los Leones from scoring.  Jose Ascanio pitched his first competitive inning since recovering from injury.  He gave up a double to the first batter he faced, then retired the next three batters.  Caracas’s 5-run 5th inning was all the firepower they needed.

Tiburones de La Guaira  4,  Caribes de Anzoategui  3  —  Jose Tabata made his Venezuelan debut, OK’ed by the Pirates, going 2-for-3 with an RBI and two walks.  Los Caribes scored 2 runs in the 4th and another in the 5th, to take a 3-1 lead. Tabata’s RBI single drove in the run in the 5th.   But Los Tiburones bit back with a 3-run 8th inning for the win.  

Bravos de Margarita  7,  Cardenales de Lara  3  —  A 5-run rally in the bottom of the 1st inning, including a grand slam, gave Los Bravos a lead they would not give up.  Starter Yusmeiro Petit pitched 7 innings for Los Bravos, allowing one run.  He was relieved to begin the 8th inning, by Bobby Livingston (who pitched in one game for the Indy Indians in 2009.  Livingston gave up 2 runs on two singles and a double, then was relieved by Anthony Claggett.  Claggett ended the inning with a strikeout, then retired the side in the 9th.  

Aguilas de Zulia  2,  Tigres de Aragua  1  —  SS Ronny Cedeno scored Los Tigres’ only run in the bottom of the 1st.  After a double, Cedeno reached base on a fielder’s choice, then stole second base, and scored on an RBI single.  Back-to-back home runs in the top of the 4th gave Zulia the lead in the 4th inning.  Cedeno was hitless in his other 3 plate appearances.  1B Hector Gimenez singled in the 4th, when Los Tigres loaded the bases, but did not score.  LF Lastings Milledge went 0-for-4, and C Raul Chavez went 0-for-2 for Los Tigres.  

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Fall and Winter League Rosters

The Arizona Fall League begins play today, with seven Pirates’ farmhands on the roster for the Mesa Solar Sox.� Players from the Los Angeles Angels, the Philadelphia Phillies, the Chicago Cubs, and the New York Mets will round out the Solar Sox’ roster. � Pitchers Brian Leach, Aaron Pribanic, and Justin Wilson are all participating, and all are expected to pitch in relief, as other pitchers have the priority for starting roles.� Team USA’s Justin De Fratus (Phillies) is also on the roster, so he must be planning to join the Solar Sox later in the week after the Pan Am tournament wraps up.

Behind the plate, look for C Tony Sanchez, who is trying to make up time after missing much of the regular season due to a fractured jaw.� Sanchez has also been asked by MLB to keep a blog of his experiences in the Arizona Fall League.� (He hasn’t started it yet — stay tuned.)� Phillies’ pitcher Josh Zeid and Angels pitcher Ryan Brasier, both slated as starters for the Solar Sox, have also been asked to write blogs.

Altoona infielders Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer will be sharing some infield time with six other infielders, including Josh Vitters of the Cubs.� Their Curve teammate Andrew Lambo will be sharing outfield duties with four other outfielders, including Phillies’ John Mayberry.

Mexican Pacific League

Los Venados de Mazatlan is the hometown team of OF Rogelios Noris. He got in a little playing time last year as a rookie, and was a bit of a surprise, with some home runs and some very good pinch-hit appearances. The 21-year-old hit .236 with the West Virginia Power during the 2010 season.

Also listed on one Mazatlan roster (but not all) is LHP Jovany Lopez. Lopez is a 19 year old from Los Mochis, who has spent two seasons with the Pirates Venezuelan Summer League team.� This season, he made 18 relief appearances (27.2 innings) and had a 5-0 record with a 3.90 ERA.� He gave up 30 hits and 12 earned runs, but allowed only 5 walks and struck out 21.

Three former Pirates are also playing in the Mexican Pacific League:� Inf/Of Yurendell de Caster is with Los Algodoneros de Guasave, C Humberto Cota is on the roster of Los Naranjeros de Hermosillo, and OF Jeff Salazar will be in center field for Los Yaquis de Obregon.

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Presley Makes First Major League Start

IMG_3974Outfielder Alex Presley (photo) made his first major league start this afternoon, manning right field for the Pirates in their 3-1 win over the Reds in Cincinnati.� Presley, who just turned 25 this week, appeared in his third major league game.� He had pinch-hit and played right field on Wednesday, his birthday, and picked up his first major league hit.� He pinch-ran on Friday, but was forced out at second base on the subsequent play.� Today, Presley singled with two outs in the top of the 8th, on a sharp grounder that got past Reds’ 2B Brandon Phillips.� He then advanced to second when Neil Walker walked.� Unfortunately both were left on base.� Presley was 1-for-4 overall, with a walk, and he nearly beat out an infield single in the top of the 1st.� There was only ball hit near him in right field — he was unable to come up with the ball on a diving attempt on Joey Votto’s double in the 4th inning.

Walker walked twice, and he did beat out the infield single in the top of the 1st, extending his hitting streak to 18 games.� John Bowker also made the start, at first base for the Pirates.� He went 0-for-3 at the plate, but he began the 9th inning rally with a walk.� C Ryan Doumit followed the walk with a single, and he was replaced by pinch-runner Pedro Ciriaco. LF Lastings Milledge bunted, but the Reds turned it into a force out, getting Bowker at third.� With runners on first and second, pinch-hitter Garrett Jones singled, loading the bases.� Then another pinch-hitter, Jose Tabata grounded to first base, and Reds’ 1B Votto was able to fire to the plate, forcing out Ciriaco, but leaving the bases loaded still.� Then CF Andrew McCutchen lined a double into left field, clearing the bases for 3 runs, and the Pirates had the 3-1 lead, and very soon after, the win.

The Altoona Curve and the Trenton Thunder (Yankees) will begin the championship round of the Eastern League playoffs on Tuesday in Altoona.

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Alvarez Has Three Big Hits In Tribe Win

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A sight Pirates’ fans have longed to see

Indianapolis Indians �5, �Pawtucket Red Sox �3 (box)

IMG_3589Mike Crotta earned his 4th win with the Indians this afternoon at Victory Field, and he was boosted by a 3-hit performance by 3B Pedro Alvarez. Alvarez was a single short of hitting for the cycle, a feat that has never been accomplished by an Indians’ player at Victory Field.

Alvarez had the first of the Indians’ 6 hits in the game — in fact, he had half of the team’s hits. �In the bottom of the 2nd, Alvarez drove a long fly ball to the deepest part of Victory Field, to the 418′ sign in the left-center field alley. �The Pawtucket LF Aaron Bates and CF Ryan Kalish were no where near to that area when the ball fell in, nearly at the warning track. �By the time they got there, Alvarez was easily on his way to third base with a triple. �After a strikeout, Tribe CF Brandon Moss plated Alvarez with an RBI ground out to the right side of the infield, and the Indians had the first run of the game.

1B Brian Myrow led off the Indians’ half of the 4th inning with a double, which fell in almost at the feet of LF Aaron Bates (who usually plays first base, not outfield). �Alvarez followed the double by taking a 1-2 pitch just barely over the right field wall (probably by less than 10 inches) and into a crowd of summer-camp kids. �It was his 12th homer of the season.

Alvarez’s third hit followed more Tribe scoring in the 5th. �SS Argenis Diaz led off the inning by working a walk. �LF Kevin Melillo, who has 5 hits in his last 3 games, doubled to the wall in the right-center alley. �Diaz was off and running on contact. �Aided a bit when RF Daniel Nava picked up the ball, dropped it, and picked it up again, Diaz raced around to score. �Doug Bernier dropped down a sacrifice bunt, moving Melillo to third base. �Myrow brought Melillo in from third with a sacrifice fly to right field. �The throw in to the plate was up the line, and Melillo scored easily. �Alvarez came to the plate with the bases clean, and he kept the rally going with a double to right-center field. �That was as far as he would get, though, as C Erik Kratz struck out to end the inning.

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Lincoln And Tabata Move Up As Indians Win In 11th

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Indianapolis Indians �6, �Pawtucket Red Sox �5 �(11 innings) (box)

IMG_3551It took 11 innings and a throw into the dugout, but the Tribe opened a 4-game series against the Pawtucket Red Sox with a win at Victory Field tonight.

And the best part, at least for Pirates’ fans, is the news that came down after the game: �pitcher Brad Lincoln will be traveling to Washington, D.C. to make his major league debut with a start against the Nationals on Wednesday. �In addition, Lincoln will be going with a buddy — outfielder Jose Tabata has also earned a promotion to the Pirates.

Charlie Morton (photo here and above) was making his first rehab start with the Indians, and in fact his second start ever for the Tribe. �He had made one start in 2009, shortly after being traded from the Atlanta Braves to the Pirates’ organization, but has been with the Pirates’ club ever since.

IMG_3553This start was not exactly all he could have hoped it would be. �Morton pitched a 1-2-3 top of the 1st, sandwiching a ground out between two strikeouts. �He went deep into counts, though, and it took him 16 pitches to get through the inning.

The Indians scored the first run of the game in the bottom of the 1st. �LF Jose Tabata worked a walk, and stole second (his 24th steal of the season) (photo). �After two fly outs, 3B Pedro Alvarez drove a double into the right-center gap, which rolled all the way to the wall and easily scored Tabata from second base.

Morton took the mound with a 1-0 lead to begin the second inning. � PawSox’ 1B Lars Anderson dribbled a slow roller toward third base, then beat out 3B Pedro Alvarez’s throw to first base. �DH Aaron Bates singled into right field, sending Anderson to third base. �RF Kevin Melillo’s throw in from right field was off-target, and Bates was able to advance to second base on the error. �A strikeout and a fly out to short right field had the runners holding, but 3B Jorge Jimenez drove both of them in with a line drive into right field. �This time, Melillo’s throw back in was on-target, and Jimenez was out as he tried to make it to second base, but the PawSox had taken a 2-1 lead.

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