HOUSTON -- Ryan Church's offensive numbers may be pretty uninspiring through the first half of the season, but that's not going to deter manager John Russell from continuing to start the outfielder on a fairly regular basis.
Church started again on Thursday, marking the 13th time in the team's past 25 games that he got the nod over Lastings Milledge. That's despite the fact that during that span Church's batting average has stayed steadily below the Mendoza Line, while Milledge has hit .315 with a .383 on-base percentage.
Church entered the season as a career .272 hitter, and he has finished with a lower batting average than that only once -- that coming during a brief appearance with Montreal as a rookie in 2004. It's that track record of consistent production that has Russell confident Church will eventually turn things around.
"To be the team that we need to be, we need to get him going," Russell said. "You look at the numbers and you say, 'Why do you keep going with him?' But the guy has always hit very well. You just hope you can get him on track."
Ideally, the Pirates see Milledge starting primarily against left-handers and Church continuing to get the majority of starts against right-handed starters.
Doumit's power drop a head-scratcher
HOUSTON -- Ryan Doumit didn't finish 2009 with particularly overwhelming power numbers, though there was a reasonable explanation. Not only did the right wrist surgery cost the catcher almost half of the season, but it had sapped some of the strength in his wrist when Doumit returned in July.
So when Doumit entered 2010 fully recovered from that surgery, the expectation was that his power numbers would jump -- at least a little. Yet to this point, they've gone in the other direction.
Doumit entered Thursday with seven home runs in 252 at-bats this season, an average of one homer every 36 at-bats. In Doumit's 235 at-bats after his wrist injury last year, he went deep eight times. That averages out to once every 29 at-bats.
Even Andrew McCutchen, not one advertised for his power, has as many home runs this season as Doumit through the team's first 84 games.
"The main thing with Ryan is staying consistent in his approach," manager John Russell said. "He has a tendency to chase and be a little overaggressive. When he's within himself, he starts to drive the ball.
"I guess we have to define how much power we think he's going to have. Is he a 20-30 home run guy? Or does he hit 10-15? I think he's going to hit home runs. It's in there. He's one of those streaky home run hitters who hits them in bunches."
As Doumit's career progresses, it's becoming more apparent that while he is always a threat to go deep, that may not be his particular calling card. Including his seasons in the Minors, Doumit has hit more than 10 homers only twice in 11 seasons. He hit 18 combined between Triple-A Indianapolis and Pittsburgh in 2005. He had 15 in 116 games with Pittsburgh in '08.
Russell had one other potential explanation for Doumit's lack of power to this point, pointing to the pressure he's carried as a main cog in an offense that has struggled to score runs.
"He's probably gotten away from himself a little bit trying to do too much," Russell said. "We'll see how it goes. If we have this conversation in another month or so, hopefully we'll start seeing more home runs."
Gallagher joins Bucs after trade with Padres
HOUSTON -- Right-hander Sean Gallagher, whom the Pirates acquired in a trade with the Padres on Wednesday, arrived at Minute Maid Park in time to be available out of the bullpen for Thursday's finale. Gallagher took an early-morning flight from San Diego to Houston.
Gallagher's last appearance came on June 30, when he threw 41 pitches in a two-inning outing. The Pirates plan to use him in a middle-relief role initially. He will wear uniform No. 43.
A roster spot was opened for Gallagher on Wednesday night after the Pirates optioned starter Daniel McCutchen to Triple-A.
Prior to Thursday's game, manager John Russell held a closed-door meeting with members of the club's young core. Andrew McCutchen, Brad Lincoln, Jose Tabata, Garrett Jones, Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez all emerged from Russell's office following a gathering that lasted at least 30 minutes. ... With the addition of Sean Gallagher, the Pirates' 40-man roster is now full. However, Pittsburgh could easily clear two openings by placing Kevin Hart and/or Donnie Veal on the 60-day disabled list. Both pitchers will miss the rest of the season after undergoing arm surgeries. ... The Pirates entered Thursday ranked last in the National League in home runs (53), runs scored (272) and team batting average (.237).
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.