PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates have notified their Venezuelan academy that the organization will be terminating its lease and no longer participating in the six-team Venezuelan Summer League.
Though the Pirates have not commented publicly on the situation, the instability and political climate in Venezuela is thought to have played a large role in the organization's decision to pull out. The move will also ease the organization's Latin American development system, as it will now all be centered out of the Pirates' relatively new academy in the Dominican Republic.
Beginning in 2012, the Pirates will field two teams in the Dominican Summer League. Both clubs will accommodate 35 players, meaning that the closure of the Venezuelan academy will not impact the number of players the Pirates can develop in Latin America.
Pittsburgh's VSL team finished in first place this season with a 40-32 record. It advanced to the postseason for the sixth straight season before losing to the Rays' affiliate in the championship series. The Pirates have captured two of the last four VSL championships.
Doumit cleared to play after chest injury
PITTSBURGH -- Ryan Doumit returned to the Pirates' lineup on Monday after tests cleared him of any further complications from a chest bruise he sustained in Sunday's loss to the Marlins.
Doumit underwent a battery of tests after exiting Sunday's game in the fifth. The results of all those tests came back negative.
He sustained the injury in the fourth inning when he and starter James McDonald got crossed up on the sign. McDonald delivered a fastball while Doumit was set up low for a breaking pitch. The ball struck Doumit in his chest protector and scooted away for a passed ball.
Doumit caught one more inning before being pulled. He entered Monday having gone 12-for-24 with four doubles and a home run in his last eight games. Since coming off the disabled list on August 3, Doumit was hitting .323.
Walker, McCutchen learning to grind it out
PITTSBURGH -- For all the recent attention paid to the workload of the Pirates' starters this season, a pair of position players are on pace to make more starts this year than they have before at this level.
Neil Walker made his 145th start on Monday, which was game No. 147 for the club. No Major League second baseman has started more games in 2011, and only Atlanta's Dan Uggla has started as many.
What's impressive about Walker's run, too, is that he's become the team's most reliable position player in what is his first full Major League season. Walker started 153 games -- 43 of which came in Triple-A -- in 2010.
Right behind Walker is center fielder Andrew McCutchen, who has started 143 games. That total ranks second among all big league center fielders. McCutchen started 154 games in 2010, which was his first full season in the Majors.
Perhaps the wear and tear of starting nearly every game is beginning to catch up with McCutchen and Walker. Walker is batting just .206 since the start of September. McCutchen has been even less productive. His September batting average sat at .167 coming into Monday's series opener against the Cardinals.
"I would expect some fatigue," manager Clint Hurdle said. "But how do you build up endurance? If you want to build up running endurance, you keep running farther. For me, this is all about building up endurance. It's all about getting their [bodies] and their brains around a full season."
Manager Clint Hurdle hushed speculation that Pedro Alvarez will get the majority of starts at third base from now until the end of the season. Though Alvarez started Monday, Josh Harrison will continue to see substantial playing time.
The Pirates will recognize the team's nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award on Wednesday, which is Roberto Clemente Day around baseball. During that pregame ceremony, the organization will also honor Minor League players who have been selected to receive the Pirates Community Commitment Program award. Those recipients include: Brian Burres (Triple-A), Aaron Pribanic (Double-A), Adalberto Santos (Class A Advanced), Tyler Waldren (Class A), Matthew Skirving (short season), Gavi Nivar (Rookie) and Robertson Valdez (Dominican).
In conjunction with Roberto Clemente Day, Pirates players and coaches will deliver school supplies and meet with children at Pittsburgh Faison Pre K-8 Elementary School on Tuesday. They will be accompanied by Vera Clemente and her two sons, Roberto Jr. and Luis.
Reliever Chris Leroux entered Monday's game having retired 23 of the last 24 batters he has faced. He had been scored upon just twice in his last 15 appearances.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.