CHICAGO -- Ross Ohlendorf has never been shy to throw over to first base. In fact, last year he led the National League with eight pickoffs. And in doing so, he became just the third right-hander since 2002 to have seven or more pickoffs in a single season.
This year, however, the pickoffs aren't accumulating, and the errors are.
Ohlendorf committed yet another throwing error on a pickoff attempt on Sunday, which marked his fourth such error in his past eight starts. It cost the right-hander a run, too, that loomed largely in Pittsburgh's eventual one-run loss to Oakland. And now in 11 starts, he still hasn't picked off a runner all year.
So what has gone wrong for Ohlendorf, who has had success in this area in recent years? The issue lies in his target, Ohlendorf explained. Instead of throwing a safe, high throw to the first baseman, Ohlendorf is trying to aim the throw low so the first baseman has a better chance at a quick catch and tag.
The problem, though, is that Ohlendorf isn't making those throws accurately.
"I haven't been picking guys off, so I'm trying to make better throws and I end up throwing them too far away," Ohlendorf said. "Last year, when I was trying to make those throws, I was making them more consistently. This year, I've just yanked them just a little bit to where they are a little out of reach."
All this presents a Catch-22 of sorts for Ohlendorf, who doesn't want to let his recent throwing issues keep him from being aggressive in that area. His solution? "One thing I'm going to do is practice more," Ohlendorf said.
Added manager John Russell: "He likes to pick guys off. He's good at it. He's quick to first. When you're that quick, sometimes it's tough to pick up your target. I don't want to take that away from him, because he's good at it."
Crosby hopes to return soon after collision
CHICAGO -- After exiting Monday's game with concussion-like symptoms, Bobby Crosby appeared optimistic that his collision with outfielder Lastings Milledge will not sideline him for long.
The two collided when, with one out in the bottom of the second, Cubs catcher Geovany Soto skied a popup to shallow right, near the foul line. Milledge and Crosby both gave pursuit and collided as the ball dropped between them. Milledge's right shoulder knocked Crosby squarely in the head, though as Crosby went down, he didn't lose consciousness.
Crosby stayed in the game at the time, but after feeling woozy when he grounded out in the following inning, he was replaced by Delwyn Young for the rest of the night. After the game, Crosby said he was still dealing with headaches. But the Pirates had no plans to have the infielder go to the hospital to be evaluated overnight.
"I feel a lot better now than I did two hours ago," Crosby said.
As for the play, Crosby said that he never did call for the ball. And though members of the Pirates' bullpen heard Milledge calling Crosby off, the infielder never heard him.
"I didn't personally hear him," Crosby said. "Both of us were just trying to catch a ball. It happens."
Crosby is now the second Pittsburgh second baseman in the past four games to exit early after colliding with the team's right fielder. Neil Walker suffered a concussion on Friday after being hit in the back of the neck by Church's knee in about the same spot where Monday's collision occurred. Walker left Friday's game immediately after going down and continues to have symptoms of a concussion. A timetable for his return is unknown.
Walker is scheduled to see a specialist in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, general manager Neal Huntington said Monday. An MRI done on Walker, who left the team on Monday to return to Pittsburgh, came back negative.
"It's the Bermuda Triangle down there," manager John Russell said. "We need to stay away from there, I guess."
Duke throws 40 pitches off flat ground
CHICAGO -- Zach Duke threw 40 pitches off flat ground on Monday, the second straight day he has tested his arm out throwing. Duke (left elbow flexor pronator strain) threw 25 pitches in Oakland on Sunday.
If everything continues to progress as expected, Duke is scheduled to throw off the mound for the first time on Friday. He'll likely need at least two side sessions before making a Minor League rehab start.
With this schedule, it doesn't appear that Duke will be ready to return after just one more missed start. He had already been ruled out to pitch on July 1, but the Pirates had been holding out hope that he'd be back in the rotation the next time through. That appears unlikely.
The good news, though, is that Duke has continued to report improvements with his elbow.
"It feels good," he said on Monday. "I'm right on track. Just playing catch, easing back into that."
Pirates sign three Draft picks
CHICAGO -- The Pirates signed three more members of their 2010 Draft class, adding right-handers Casey Sadler (25th round), Jason Townsend (31st round) and James Archibald (36th round) to bring the total number of signees to 14.
All three pitchers were drafted out of college, with Sadler just having completed his sophomore season at Western Oklahoma State College. He went 10-1 with a 3.12 ERA in 17 games (15 starts). In 74 innings, Sadler compiled 81 strikeouts.
Townsend was a junior at the University of Alabama last year and finished with 36 strikeouts in 36 innings (21 appearances). He had transferred to Alabama after spending two years at Chipola (Fla.) Junior College. Archibald went 3-1 with a 3.00 ERA in 27 innings for McLennan (Texas) Community College.
Though Pittsburgh has now inked 14 picks, the organization has signed just one player drafted in the first 11 rounds. The deadline to sign players from the First-Year Player Draft is midnight on Aug. 16.
Monessen resident Lexie is Bucs' All-Star
CHICAGO -- As part of Major League Baseball's and People magazine's initiative to recognize individuals serving their communities, 30 "All-Stars Among Us" finalists -- one to represent each team -- have been selected.
Albert Lexie of Monessen, Pa., has been chosen to represent the Pirates during an on-field ceremony prior to the July 13 All-Star Game. Lexie has been shining shoes at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh since 1981 and has donated all of his tips to the hospital's Free Care Fund. The money in that fund helps cover medical-care costs for children whose families are unable to pay.
In all, Lexie has raised more than $150,000 in tip money.
One of the "All-Stars Among Us" will be featured in People's July 19th issue. This is the second year that People and MLB have teamed up for this program.
Manager John Russell said that "as of now" Daniel McCutchen remains the team's probable starter for Thursday's series opener against Philadelphia. If that changes between now and Thursday, it's likely because Pittsburgh wants to make space in the rotation for Charlie Morton. ... Left-hander Jack Taschner, who rejected an outright assignment to Triple-A earlier this month, has signed a Minor League contract with the Dodgers. He has been assigned to Triple-A Albuquerque. ... Catcher/infielder James Skelton and right-hander Ramon Aguero have been promoted from high Class A Bradenton to Double-A Altoona. Aguero allowed two earned runs in 10 2/3 innings (eight appearances) with the Marauders. Aguero was initially slated to begin the season with Altoona, but elbow tendinitis kept him from pitching for the first two months of the season. ... The Pirates announced that they raised more than $76,500 during the organization's recent on-air auction with FSN Pittsburgh.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.