05/16/10 7:47 PM ET
Bucs set to hold pre-Draft meeting
By Jenifer Langosch / MLB.com
With the 2010 First-Year Player Draft four weeks from Monday, these meetings will serve as a final checkpoint of sorts as the Draft team goes into its final stages of compiling information and making assessments. The group will determine which players need to be followed up, and they'll reevaluate others who are moving up or down Draft boards because of injury or performance.
"We are just making sure that we have gathered as much information as we can possibly gather," Huntington said.
The Pirates are set to pick second overall on June 7, marking the fifth year in a row the Pirates will have a top-4 pick. While the Bucs won't be creating their Draft board -- a comprehensive ordering of players available -- until their second set of meetings about 10 days before the Draft, potential first-round names are emerging.
High school right-hander Jameson Taillon, college catcher Bryce Harper, high school shortstop Manny Machado and college lefty Drew Pomeranz are among the top players that the Pirates are extensively scouting as potential selections with that No. 2 pick. This Draft is not viewed as having the type of can't-miss talent that recent Drafts have had, though it is believed to be deep with high school pitching.
"There's no [Dustin] Ackley and there's no [Stephen] Strasburg in this year's Draft, in our minds," Huntington said, noting the first two players chosen in 2009. "Those two players would stand alone if they were in this year's Draft class. Comparing this year's class to the '08 Draft, a good amount of the '08 guys would stand above the '10 guys. That said, we like a good number of guys in the 2010 class. We believe we are going to get a very good player."
Iwamura sidelined by tight hamstring
CHICAGO -- Second baseman Aki Iwamura has been put on the bench -- not because of his prolonged offensive slump, but due to tightness in his right hamstring.
Iwamura felt the hamstring begin to tighten as he ran to first in the seventh inning of Saturday's 4-3 win. He was removed from the game immediately after and is expected to miss 2-4 games while he lets his hamstring heal.
"The good thing," Iwamura said through a translator, "was I was able to stop before I made it worse."
The Pirates don't anticipate having to place Iwamura on the disabled list, and manager John Russell even noted that the infielder would be available to pinch-hit Sunday, if necessary.
The injury comes with Iwamura mired in a deep offensive funk. He is batting just .159 on the season, hitless in his last 26 at-bats, and just 2-for-43 this month.
"With the numbers I have, I don't think I have time to sit down and not play," Iwamura said. "The timing was bad for me to have this kind of injury. It's frustrating."
Despite the numbers, both Iwamura and Russell expressed some encouragement with Iwamura's performance on Saturday. He showed some plate patience and drew two walks as a result. Iwamura also squared up a ball that was caught up against the right-field fence.
"It's unfortunate his hamstring is tight, because I think he was starting to do some things that will get him headed in the right direction," Russell said. "He's doing some better things. Hopefully he's not out too long."
Russell will use Bobby Crosby and Delwyn Young to fill in at second base during Iwamura's absence.
McCutchen a model of consistency
CHICAGO -- Boosted by a terrific two games in Chicago this weekend, center fielder Andrew McCutchen has quietly climbed up to join the National League leaders in a number of offensive categories.
The second-year center fielder entered Sunday's series finale hitting .343, the third-highest batting average in the NL. He ranks fifth in runs scored (26), third in hits (47) and second in stolen bases (12). Keep in mind, too, that McCutchen still hasn't reached the one-year anniversary of his Major League debut.
What has been arguably the most impressive facet of McCutchen's game since his debut last June, though, is his sheer consistency with the bat. He has now played 143 games in the Majors and has never gone hitless in more than three straight games. In fact, he's only reached three-straight hitless games twice.
McCutchen's longest stretch without a hit came last year, when he had an 0-for-14 spell in late June. His 0-for-11 skid earlier this week is the longest such stretch in 2010. He ended that brief drought by going 7-for-10 in the past two games.
"He's that type of player," manager John Russell said when asked about McCutchen's consistency. "He's got a great head on his shoulders and handles adversity so well, success so well. There are a lot of factors involved. I like to use the word dynamic because he's dynamic in about everything he does."
Early score gets the win for Bucs
CHICAGO -- It's no guarantee, but when the Pirates have scored in the first inning this season, they have been nearly unbeatable.
Pittsburgh is 13-3 when scoring at least one run in the game's opening frame. That means, of course, that the club has won just three games this season without scoring that early.
The Cubs are becoming frustratingly familiar with the Pirates' success when scoring in the first, too. Pittsburgh, which entered Sunday 5-0 against Chicago this season, scored in the first inning in each of those five games. Entering Sunday, the Pirates had totaled 13 runs in all and had a .481 average in the frame.
"That's it right there," Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez said when reminded of the trend. "They come here and they score runs, especially early in the game, and they've been able to hold that lead. You've got give them credit, they've played good against us."
The Pirates were held without a run in the first Sunday, but scored three runs in the second.
Righty Morris promoted to Double-A
CHICAGO -- Bryan Morris' sensational start to the season has earned the right-hander a promotion to Double-A. The Pirates made the announcement late Sunday afternoon.
Morris, who Pittsburgh acquired in the 2008 Jason Bay trade, had been dominant in eight starts with low-A Bradenton (Fla.). He hadn't allowed an earned run in any of his past five outings (30 innings) and had given up just three in 44 2/3 innings all year. Morris struck out 40 and walked just seven.
His 0.60 ERA was best among Minor League starters at any level.
This is all a 180-degree turnaround from where Morris, 23, was a year ago. He spent all of 2009 at the high-A level and struggled through a 4-9 season in which he posted a 5.57 ERA. The year was low-lighted by a 12-day suspension for unprofessional conduct.
Now, though, Morris has put his name back in the mix among the organization's best pitching prospects. And Double-A Altoona might not be his final stop this season.
Speaking on his weekly radio show earlier on Sunday, general manager Neal Huntington left the door open for Morris to pitch his way into the Triple-A rotation before year's end.
"If he can sustain what he's doing, he might be able to jump another level by August," Huntington said. "He's really made great strides."
CHICAGO -- With the Pirates at the beginning of a stretch in which they'll play 20 games in 20 days, manager John Russell kept Garrett Jones out of the lineup on Sunday to give him just his second day off of the season. "At some point you've got to give a guy a blow," Russell said. Jones is hitting .340 with eight extra-base hits and 13 RBIs in 12 games this month. ... Steve Pearce returned to the lineup Sunday after missing just one game due to tightness behind his right knee. ... While Octavio Dotel has had a knack for making things interesting in the ninth, setup men Evan Meek and Joel Hanrahan have been dominant lately in getting the ball to the closer. Opponents have scored just once off Hanrahan in his last 11 appearances, while Meek has given up just two earned runs in 24 innings all year.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.