Struggling Pirates come to town
So they're the same old Pirates, right?
With the rainout Tuesday at Washington, they now head to Cincinnati to face the defending Central Division champions, and they lug behind them a six-game losing streak. Gone was the good feeling that many in Pittsburgh had -- justified or not -- about the franchise poking its head above .500 a week ago at 18-17, almost instantly replaced by 18-23.
"It's a long season," manager Clint Hurdle said Tuesday morning at Nationals Park. "The one thing I've encouraged the guys that I've talked to today is that, a week ago, we were 18-17. A lot can happen in a week, but you've just got to take care of today."
Today, the Pirates remain one of the worst hitting teams in the majors, the primary culprit for this streak and a problem since Opening Day. They are batting .235, and they have only two everyday players -- Neil Walker and Chris Snyder -- batting over .250 individually.
"Our production has been pretty consistent in the fact that we need more," Hurdle said. "You can't close the book on guys. I'm going to encourage them. I've been part of it. If we're going to change the direction and mindset of what's gone on here in the past, this group has got to do that on their own."
To that end, Hurdle, who is sharing hitting coach duties with Gregg Ritchie, the owner of that title, is encouraging players to break from the norm.
"You can't feel what you felt before," Hurdle said. "You've got to figure it out and stay positive. Somebody's got to spread the elixir out there that it's not a try-harder situation. Look for a spot. Look for a zone. Don't change lanes every pitch. Hit with confidence. Hit with bad intentions."
As opposed to bad results.
--RHP Charlie Morton was pushed back yet again by rain. He had been scheduled to pitch Tuesday and now will go Wednesday night in Cincinnati. His previous start Thursday lasted only two innings before being wiped out by rain. "There's still plenty of time for me to get ready for the Reds," Morton said.
--RHP Evan Meek struck out all three batters he faced in a rehab outing Tuesday for Class AAA Indianapolis and probably will return to the Pirates in time for the game Wednesday. Meek has been out three weeks because of right shoulder tendinitis.
--RHP Jose Ascanio might be the best choice to be sent back to Indianapolis when RHP Evan Meek returns, but Ascanio would have to clear waivers. Ascanio allowed a two-run home run on his first pitch Monday, and that cost the Pirates the game. He is back after losing nearly two years to shoulder surgery.
--SS Ronny Cedeno had a miserable April, but he is 14 of 42 in May, a .333 average, and has his average up to .243. He has reached base eight times in his past 11 plate appearances. No one is talking about Cedeno possibly losing his job anymore.
--C Tony Sanchez, one of the Pirates' top prospects, was ordered by the baseball operations staff to not use Twitter anymore after some semi-controversial tweets, including one that criticized Eastern League umpires last week. "Pittsburgh is the only goal, and Twitter is standing in my way," Sanchez wrote in his final tweet. He is with Class AA Altoona.
BY THE NUMBERS: 77.4 -- Percentage of outs recorded by groundballs by RHP Charlie Morton, highest in Major League Baseball.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "How can you postpone a game at 9 a.m. and it still hadn't rained?" -- LHP Paul Maholm, on the Nationals' decision to cancel an afternoon game when no rain fell until late in the afternoon.
--RHP Evan Meek (right shoulder tendinitis) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 27. He began a rehabilitation stint with Class AAA Indianapolis in mid-May and probably will need no more than two appearances before being activated by the Pirates. He is expected back in Pittsburgh by the end of the third week in May.
--RHP Mike Crotta (right elbow inflammation) went on the 15-day disabled list May 11.
--RHP Ross Ohlendorf (strained right shoulder) went on the 15-day disabled list April 9. He threw off flat ground for the first time April 17. Ohlendorf threw from 120 feet April 26, and he threw two bullpen sessions in late April. He pitched his first live batting practice May 3 and threw another May 6. He had a setback though and isn't expected to rejoin the rotation until June at the earliest. He did resume throwing over the second weekend of May.
--RHP Kevin Hart (right shoulder surgery in May 2010) went on the 60-day disabled list March 18. He was throwing in Bradenton, Fla., in mid-April, but the timetable for his return was uncertain.
LHP Paul Maholm
RHP Kevin Correia
RHP James McDonald
RHP Charlie Morton
RHP Jeff Karstens
RHP Joel Hanrahan (closer)
RHP Chris Resop
RHP Jose Veras
RHP Jose Ascanio
LHP Joe Beimel
RHP Daniel McCutchen
LHP Daniel Moskos
1B Lyle Overbay
2B Neil Walker
SS Ronny Cedeno
3B Pedro Alvarez
INF Brandon Wood
LF Jose Tabata
CF Andrew McCutchen
RF Garrett Jones
OF Matt Diaz
OF/INF Steve Pearce
OF Xavier Paul