PITTSBURGH -- Pirates catcher Ryan Doumit has been up and down like the stock market this season. He is still trying to find a comfort zone.

After starting out slowly at the plate, the 30-year-old switch-hitter went on a 10-game hitting spree from April 21 to 30 (16-for-34, .471). He's since cooled off, and has gone hitless in the past three games entering play on Thursday.

Batting .282 overall with three home runs and 12 RBIs, Doumit is still not feeling comfortable at the plate.

"It's still early, but I got into a little bit of a groove during the streak," Doumit said. "Hopefully I can get it going again."

Doumit is trying to slow the game down.

"Right now, I'm just trying to see the ball," he explained.

"Early on I was trying to do too much and I've just tried to slow my entire game down. I wasn't feeling real comfortable and I didn't have a good spring. I didn't really feel comfortable in the batter's box all spring. That's the beauty of baseball -- sometimes you start off hot and sometimes you start off slow, but I'm starting to pick it up."

Fireworks confuse Milledge on double

PITTSBURGH -- Pirates outfielder Lastings Milledge was taking some good-natured ribbing from teammates following the Pirates' 11-1 win over the Chicago Cubs on Thursday night.

Milledge thought he had hit his first home run of the season in the in the bottom of the fourth inning. But the ball actually hit the bottom of the fence in left field and Milledge was thrown out rounding the bases.

He was credited with a two-run double.

"I think that was the most exciting double in PNC Park history," Milledge said sheepishly. "It was my fault, and I didn't look at the ball. I was running hard, making sure that I had a double, and I looked up and all the fireworks were going off and I had a lapse for a second.

"It was totally my fault, but what an exciting double. I had a lapse for a second and got caught in the moment. I never thought that it didn't go out because the music was playing and the fireworks. But clearly it didn't go out, it was a double, and I've got to go in the weight room in the morning."

Ohlendorf likely to return soon

PITTSBURGH -- Right-hander Ross Ohlendorf was back in the Pirates clubhouse after pitching four shutout innings in a rehab start for Double-A Altoona on Wednesday night.

Ohlendorf, who has been sidelined with back spasms since his April 7 start, threw 59 pitches (41 strikes) in the outing. He gave up three hits, one walk and struck out six.

Ohlendorf reports that he is feeling pretty good.

Pirates general manager Neal Huntington is also encouraged by Ohlendorf's progress.

"I was very pleased," Huntington said. "Ross threw three pitches for strikes and had velocity in the zone and was able to move off the mound. There was a swinging bunt and other plays where he had to move off the mound without incident. If everything goes well with his side session the expectation is that he should be ready to go on May 10 against the Reds. That's the optimistic plan right now. There is some thought to stretching him out one more start. But the plan right now is to get him out there on the 10th."

How will Ohlendorf's return affect the Pirates' rotation?

"We will piece together the rotation after that," Pirates manager John Russell said. "We'll get through that day and look at it and maybe give guys an extra day. We've got a plan in place, and how that shakes out over the next couple of days will be determined."

Pirates find success despite struggles

PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates have been outscored, 179 to 93, on the season and the pitching staff's ERA is 6.35, worst in the Majors. Despite those numbers, the Pirates enter play on Thursday night holding their own with a 12-15 record.

Pirates third baseman Andy LaRoche sees that as a positive.

"The pitching has already shown a lot of improvement," LaRoche opined. "As far as the hitting, we have been scuffling lately, but we're getting better, and guys are starting to feel more comfortable in the box, and that's going to keep improving.

"Defensively, we've been scuffling, so pretty much all three parts of the game there is room for improvement. There's a lot of work to be done and we're getting better and we are making strides. It's going to keep getting better."

"We went through a tough stretch," Pirates manager John Russell offered. "The pitching was in disarray and we were having trouble having quality starts and it was trying. I think the guys have fought back and put ourselves in a position to get out of it. We're still in a good position and we're still moving forward, and we weathered the storm and the next one that comes long we should be able to weather that one easier."

Pirates hold team-building meeting

PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates held a two hour closed-door meeting prior to Thursday night's game with the Chicago Cubs.

The featured speaker was Steve Shenbaum, a former actor and current communications and media specialist for junior and elite athletes. Shenbaum currently oversees all communication, social acclimation and media training programs as president and founder of Game on Media at IMG Academies in Bradenton, Fla.

"We had Steve Shenbaum speak to us," manager John Russell revealed. "It was a great presentation and it was a lot of fun and the players enjoyed it. It was a good two hours spent with a guy that was very energetic and got these guys to communicate with each other a little bit ... it was good."

"We got into team building and getting guys to open up a little bit, but it was fun and very enjoyable."

Worth noting

Class A Bradenton Marauders right-hander Bryan Morris improved to 3-0 with a 0.78 ERA on Wednesday after holding host Palm Beach to four hits over seven frames in the Marauders' 5-0 victory. Morris, who was a key component in the Jason Bay trade, has a league-best 0.78 ERA and is tied for third in innings pitched. "Morris began the process of turning things around during his suspension last year," Pirates GM Neal Huntington reported. "It woke him up and he recommitted himself and recognized that we were trying to help him. He had a great instructional league and a tremendous offseason. He came to Spring Training and really opened some eyes and has been able to carry it forward. He is keeping the ball down in the zone for strikes with power and velocity, has a good curveball and slider, a developing changeup and has attacked the zone. The delivery changes and the approach changes that Bryan has made have put him in a great position." ... Double-A Altoona's Alex Presley entered Thursday's action with a 19-game hitting streak, going 29-for-74 (.392 average) with two doubles, three triples, two home runs and 15 RBIs. His 19-game streak is the second-longest in Curve history (Kevin Sefcik holds the record with a 21-game hitting streak in 2002). ... Altoona lefty Daniel Moskos is 6-for-6 in save opportunities and has been scored upon once in 10 appearances.