Russell expects bats to awaken
Slow start from heart of Bucs' order doesn't prompt change
MIAMI -- Mitigating concerns that he is worried about the lack of production from some of his expected offensive leaders, Pirates manager John Russell continues to stay the course with the placement of two players expected to be some of his most prolific offensive contributors.
It has been only four games, but so far, the production from Adam LaRoche and Jason Bay -- the Pirates' Nos. 3 and 4 hitters in all but one of the club's first five games -- has been nearly nothing.
LaRoche, a perennial slow starter, entered Saturday's contest on an 0-for-17 spell and with just two hits in 19 regular-season at-bats. His eight strikeouts through Friday's game were most among all National League players.
"His approach is pretty good -- he's close," Russell said of LaRoche.
Bay is not far behind, having struck out six times in 14 at-bats. To his credit, Bay had drawn six walks through Friday. However, with just two hits, Bay, too, has not been carrying his load as a primary player in the heart of the Pirates' order.
"We've seen some really good things, and we've seen some things we need to correct," Russell said of the first week of the season. "I think you're seeing that on both sides of the ball."
Again on Saturday, Russell opted to hit both Bay and LaRoche above Xavier Nady, who has been the biggest offense catalyst so far with seven of the team's 20 RBIs. Ryan Doumit, who had matched Nady with eight hits through Friday, was out of the lineup altogether in favor of the right-handed-hitting Ronny Paulino.
Even with part of his heart of the order struggling, Russell is somewhat limited in how much he can shake up the lineup. He has lost some flexibility to move certain players around because of the fact that neither shortstop Jack Wilson nor second baseman Freddy Sanchez was able to start again on Saturday due to lingering injuries.
With both middle infielders out, Luis Rivas hit in the No. 2 spot, while Chris Gomez was put in the eight-hole.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.