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Some walk the plank, others welcomed aboard

July 31, 2008
Chuck Greenwood

It's that time of year when new players are seemingly moving into the Pittsburgh Pirates clubhouse every day.

This week's new arrivals include two new faces and one face that had been up earlier in the season.

Newly-acquired righthander Jeff Karstens and recently called up Jason Davis are the two new faces. Davis picked up the win in Tuesday's nigh game in relief. Shortstop Brian Bixler was recalled from Indianapolis (AAA) to replace first baseman Adam LaRoche, who placed on the 15-day disabled list with a right intercostal strain. For those of you who don't have a degree in medicine or nursing, the common term for that injury is a pulled ribcage muscle. It would be so nice if they release the injury reports in sports lingo, not medical lingo.

After struggling at the plate with the Pirates earlier this season to the tune of a .175 batting average, Bixler batted .278 with six homers and 29 RBI in 58 Indianapolis games. He has been a minor league mid-season All-Star each of the last three seasons.

"It feels good. I'm happy to be back," said Bixler Tuesday afternoon. "I think I have improved my approach at the plate. Plus, I made a few adjustments."

Manager John Russell indicated that Bixler, who has been a shortstop throughout his minor league career, is also going to be getting some extra work in at second base in the coming days.

"He saw some action at second base in spring training," said Russell in regards to Bixler. "In addition to Freddy (Sanchez), we also have Luis Rivas and Chris Gomez who can play second. We can put (Jose) Bautista over there. He's played in there in the past."

Bixler displayed a mixture of anticipation and trepidation in preparing for some work at the keystone.

"I've played shortstop my whole life," Bixler said. "Second base should be a little different."

Bixler is hoping for better results in his second tour of duty this season, than he had earlier this season with the big league club.

"It's a little easier this time," said Bixler. "I'm standing a little taller at the plate. Little things like that make a difference."

Angry LaRoche

Tuesday, may have been the angriest that I have ever seen LaRoche get when talking about being placed on the 15-day disabled list.

"The injury wasn't what I thought it was," said the Pirates first baseman. "I was feeling good at the plate and now I have to go sit down for a couple of weeks. We couldn't afford to have a number of guys down (unable to play), so it was decided that it was best for me to go on the disabled list. I had originally thought it would only be two or three days."

The injury to the intercostal muscle means that it will be at least 10 days before LaRoche can even begin to start exercising again.

"They say that rest is the only way to heal it," said LaRoche. "I hate not playing and battling out there with the guys. I can't rotate my body. I can lean forward and backwards, but I can't rotate. From the medical staff's experience, they say that it can be anywhere from one to six weeks before I can come back."

The prognosis of a possible six weeks without his hot-hitting first baseman has Russell worried.

"We don't how the injury will respond," said the Pirates manager. "We have to be real cautious. I've seen guys come back too soon and then two or three days later, they reinjure it. He was swinging the bat so well."

In LaRoche's absence, Doug Mientkiewicz will get the bulk of the playing time at first base, with Gomez providing relief. Outfielder Steve Pearce saw limited action at first base in AAA this year, is a possible solution, but not likely..

"We're going to try and keep Steve in the outfield," Russell said. "We want him to get settled in. We don't want to move him around."

One corner of the Pirates lockerroom should probably be named, "The Pirates Triangle." For the past two years, the three-cubicle corner has hosted Matt Capps (15-day D.L.), LaRoche (DL) and Xavier Nady (traded last Friday). In earlier years, Mike Williams and Jason Kendall lockered in that corner.



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