Pirates notebook: Barajas battling through slump

Rob Biertempfel
| Sunday, April 29, 2012, 12:30 a.m.

ATLANTA — Rod Barajas has played in more than a thousand games over 14 years in the major leagues, but he has never gotten off to a more miserable start at the plate than he has this season.

It's not unusual for Barajas to take a while to find his batting stroke. In his career, he owns a .223 batting average with a .658 OPS in March and April.

This year, Barajas went 2 for 30 in his first nine games, then tumbled into an 0-for-14 drought. Barajas lugged a .167 average into Saturday night's game against the Braves and was one of only two position players on the team without an RBI.

“This game will drive you nuts,” Barajas said. “Right now, I'm just trying to take a step back. It's easy to sit there, look at every at-bat and really get frustrated. I was at that point. Now, I'm at the point where I need to try to remember that I've done this before. Instead of having those negative thoughts, I'm going up there trusting what I can do.”

That did not help Friday, when Barajas came to bat with the bases loaded and one out with the score tied in the fourth inning. Braves starter Tommy Hanson had walked the previous two batters, including a four-pitch pass to Casey McGehee.

Barajas swung at the first pitch and grounded into an inning-ending double play. He explained that he got a slider, the pitch he expected to see, so he did not hesitate.

“It seems like every time lately when I take that first pitch, trying to work the count, it's always strike one,” he said. “That one would've been strike one, too, if I would've been taking.”

Injury updates

Right-hander Jeff Karstens (right shoulder inflammation) is expected to begin soft-toss Monday at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla. He is eligible to come off the disabled list Thursday but likely will be out until at least mid-May.

Reliever Chris Leroux (torn right pectoral muscle) also is in Bradenton and might begin tossing Monday.

Close call for Meek

Reliever Evan Meek got a scare in the eighth inning Friday when the Braves' Freddie Freeman hit a smash up the middle. Meek snared the ball just inches from his face, then dropped to his knees on the mound.

Meek said the catch was part luck, part instinct.

“It just found my mitt,” he said. “That's better than finding my face.”

Back in Atlanta

This is Nate McLouth's first series back in Atlanta since rejoining the Pirates last offseason. He was traded to the Braves in 2009 and departed as a free agent last winter.

“It was weirder coming back to Pittsburgh as a visiting player than it is coming back here (to Atlanta) now,” McLouth said.

McLouth batted just .229 with the Braves. There were scattered boos at Turner Field when he was introduced as a pinch hitter Friday night.

“I didn't hit well anywhere when I was with the Braves,” he said with a laugh. “But I love this park. I liked everything about being here except the way that I played. Unfortunately, that was a pretty big part.”

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or 412-320-7811.

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