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07/21/10 1:24 AM ET

Duke looking to make his next start count

Zach Duke's first start off the disabled list was shortened due to a tight pitch count. After spending nearly a month on the DL because of a sore elbow, the Pirates lefty was limited to just 78 pitches last Friday against Houston to ease him back slowly.

In the outing, Duke made a solid return to his club, yielding a mere five hits and two runs in five innings. Although he still claimed the loss, Duke was undoubtedly encouraged by his performance coming off the injury.

"I felt good," Duke said. "I felt like I was commanding the ball pretty well. I felt like the stuff was crisp. The curveball was good. The changeup was good. The fastball was down. I feel like I can build off this, for sure."

Pittsburgh could certainly use any boost it can receive. The club has dropped eight of its last 10 games, including Duke's last six starts.

But Bucs manager John Russell isn't placing any of the blame on his hurler.

"He had done what he needed to do," Russell said. "You could tell he was starting to labor there a little bit toward the end. For his first time back, I thought he threw the ball pretty well. I think it's something he can build off of to get some momentum for his next start."

Brewers pitcher Randy Wolf, meanwhile, already has a little momentum on his side. The Milwaukee southpaw claimed his first win in three starts last Friday, surrendering three runs and fanning four in six innings.

But he struggled in an outing against the Pirates earlier this month, allowing four runs in a no-decision. Wolf, however, wasn't fazed about his lackluster start.

"One rough inning," Wolf said. "I left some balls over the plate, and they had a three-run inning. That last run ... I was successful all day with fastballs to [Pedro] Alvarez and he just finally caught up to one and he barreled it. I'm not happy with it, but I'm glad we ended up winning in the end."

Brewers: Gomez remains confident
Carlos Gomez is still confident he can get back on track. Despite struggling during his first half of the season with Milwaukee, the outfielder has been encouraged by his recent progress.

"I feel really good," he said. "I don't feel bad because if they give me the opportunity to play, my numbers will be there. Right now, my numbers are not bad. A couple more 3-for-4 games, like I had the other day, and I'm hitting .260. For me, .260 is good for everybody because of my speed and my defense. I don't need to hit .300, .330.

"It's about putting a couple of games together. I can still make my year. I'm not scared because we have two more months to play and I only have 213 at-bats."

Pirates: McCutchen remains day-to-day
After spraining his right AC joint on Sunday, Andrew McCutchen missed his second consecutive game on Tuesday. At the moment, the outfielder said he can't throw or hit and subsequently couldn't gauge his return to the Pirates lineup.

"I've never been injured, so I don't know how long it takes," McCutchen said. "But with the progress that I've made over the past couple of days, [it] kind of caught me by surprise, so hopefully sooner than later is what I'm thinking. So hopefully sometime soon, in the next day or so, we'll see what happens and we'll go from there."

Worth noting
Pittsburgh signed eight more Latin American players Tuesday, including Rodney Polonia, the son of former outfielder Luis Polonia, who spent 12 years in the Majors. ... Ronny Cedeno entered Tuesday's action with three straight multi-hit games, but his streak was snapped with an 0-for-4 performance in the Bucs' 11-9 victory. ... Pirates catcher Ryan Doumit didn't start on Tuesday after taking a foul tip off the mask during Monday's game against Milwaukee.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.