MILWAUKEE -- Apparently a sore back can do the body good.
After sitting out a week due to back spasms, Andy LaRoche has returned to the Pirates' lineup on a tear. In the four games since his return heading into Wednesday's series finale, LaRoche has 12 hits in his past 18 at-bats to push his season average up to .400.
The third baseman went 4-for-5 on Tuesday to give him his second four-hit game in just three days. LaRoche has hit .531 in his past nine games.
LaRoche began the season hitting seventh in the batting order, one spot ahead of the pitcher. While LaRoche fared OK in that role, he seems to be benefiting from hitting higher in the order in recent days. Batting in front of the heart of the order, rather than the pitcher, is guaranteed to get LaRoche more hittable pitches. And lately, he hasn't been missing.
Manager John Russell penciled LaRoche into the lineup's second spot on Wednesday for the third consecutive game. If LaRoche continues to get on base with such consistency, he could become a fixture at the top of the order.
The only thing that hasn't been falling for LaRoche this season are the extra-base knocks. Of LaRoche's 18 hits, 16 have been singles. But the third baseman did smack a two-run homer in the top of the first inning against Brewers starter Chris Narveson on Wednesday.
Burres to start for Bucs on Thursday
MILWAUKEE -- Left-hander Brian Burres will make a spot start for the Pirates on Thursday, manager John Russell announced on Wednesday.
Burres rejoined the club on Sunday after Chris Jakubauskas was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a head contusion and concussion. Burres actually pitched against Houston in relief on Sunday, allowing two earned runs on three hits and three walks in 1 2/3 innings.
This will be the southpaw's second spot start for Pittsburgh this month. He was called up from Triple-A Indianapolis to make an April 12 start in San Francisco. That outing lasted four innings, and Burres picked up the loss after giving up six runs and eight hits.
There is a chance that the Bucs may need Burres to start one more time after Thursday in order to bridge the gap to Ross Ohlendorf's return from the DL. Whether it's Burres who makes the fill-in start or someone else could largely hinge on how Burres fares in what will be his first career appearance against the Dodgers.
Clement starting to find a rhythm
MILWAUKEE -- Since dipping to a season-low batting average of .103 on April 17, first baseman Jeff Clement has quietly put together a nice string of at-bats over the past week to push his average back over the Mendoza Line.
Clement's three hits on Tuesday gave him five in his past 12 at-bats. He has also hit safely in five of his past six starts after going hitless in his previous five.
Clement's .208 average heading into Thursday's season finale vs. the Brewers surely doesn't represent where the converted infielder wants to be. But after a dismal two weeks at the plate to begin the season, it's at least a start in the right direction.
"I'm just looking for consistency," Clement said. "I know I've got the ability to do it. But having the ability to do it and getting it done are two different things. I've just got to go out there and get it done on a daily basis. Obviously, I felt good [on Tuesday] and felt like I swung the bat well. I've got to keep that going."
One of Clement's three hits on Tuesday left the park, giving him two homers in his past five games. He went deep just once in his first 12 contests.
Interestingly enough, before Tuesday, the last time the Pirates produced five runs in the ninth inning was on April 11, 2009. Why is that notable? It was in the ninth on that April 11 date that Ryan Doumit hit his first career grand slam. He, of course, connected for his second in the ninth on Tuesday. ... As manager John Russell mentioned after Tuesday's 7-3 win, right-hander Jeff Karstens will stay in Pittsburgh's rotation for now. He is scheduled to make his next start on Sunday. ... Former first-round Draft pick Daniel Moskos picked up his fourth save in as many opportunities for Double-A Altoona on Tuesday night. The lefty has allowed just one run and six hits in 9 1/3 innings (seven appearances) this season. This is the first season that the organization has used Moskos, who was selected in 2007, exclusively out of the bullpen. ... Outfielder Brandon Jones cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Indianapolis on Wednesday. He had been designated for assignment on Sunday to open up a 40-man roster spot.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.