PITTSBURGH -- On Memorial Day, nowhere -- nor never -- is there a shortage of deserving people to honor. And sometimes a day isn't enough, so the Pirates essentially are making Lt. Sean Parnell a Memorial Weekend honoree.The native of Murrysville is hosting a reunion for a dozen or so former members of his Army Rangers unit -- all of the principals in "Outlaw Platoon," Parnell's gripping and insightful account of their experiences in Afghanistan -- but that party won't fully swing until Saturday. So Parnell's family and a quartet of reunion early arrivals were the team's guests on Friday night -- when Parnell threw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the series opener against the Cubs. On Sunday, Parnell and the entire contingent of Army Rangers will again be the Pirates' guests. The best-selling "Outlaw Platoon," released by William Morrow/HarperCollins in February and co-authored with John Bruning, deals with Parnell's 16 months of combat duty in Afghanistan, where his men were credited with 350 kills of insurgents while losing only one of their own.
Reunion on tap for Walker, Cubs' Lalli
PITTSBURGH -- Fans of the Pirates and of the Cubs, both of whom typically jam PNC Park when the two teams meet, hope to have a good weekend.Followers of nearby Pine-Richland High School know they'll have a fantastic three days. It isn't every week that teammates from a Western Pennsylvania prep team meet across a Major League diamond. Furthermore, the reunion of Pirates second baseman Neil Walker and Cubs catcher Blake Lalli -- on the near-11th anniversary of their memorable day in the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League playoffs -- is the stuff of fantasy. Lalli was a senior pitcher/outfielder that day, when Pine-Richland came back for an 11-7 victory over Indiana, and Walker a freshman catcher. Lalli returned to Pittsburgh as the Cubs' catcher, whereas Walker is entrenched as the Bucs' second baseman and occasional cleanup hitter. Lalli wasn't called up for his Major League debut until last Friday, and his family's immediate reaction was, "You're coming to Pittsburgh!" "Obviously, your dream is to play in the big leagues," Lalli said, "and then to go back to your home town is unbelievable." There's more to the unbelievable factor: In 2004, Walker was the Pirates' first-round pick in the First-Year Player Draft, but Lalli went undrafted and, despite having been three years ahead of Walker in high school, entered pro ball two years later, signed in 2006 by the Cubs.
Jeff Karstens (inflammation in shoulder) will make a rehab start on Saturday in Indianapolis, against Louisville. He'll go either four innings or 60 pitches. Josh Harrison extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a fifth-inning single on Friday and is hitting .342 in that stretch. Rod Barajas (2-for-4 on Friday) is 15-for-43 in his last 12 games. Friday night's game began a stretch of 12 consecutive games against National League Central teams for the Bucs, who are now 6-7 against their division foes.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.