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Pirates notebook: Botched popup shocks Martin

| Saturday, May 18, 2013, 7:45 p.m.
The Pirates' Russell Martin (55) is congratulated by coach Dave Jauss after Astros shortstop Jake Elmore and right fielder Jimmy Paredes collided as they tried to catch a pop fly hit by Martin with the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth inning Friday, May 17, 2013, at PNC Park.
The Pirates' Russell Martin (55) is congratulated by coach Dave Jauss after Astros shortstop Jake Elmore and right fielder Jimmy Paredes collided as they tried to catch a pop fly hit by Martin with the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth inning Friday, May 17, 2013, at PNC Park.

Pirates catcher Russell Martin was so surprised to see his ninth-inning popup drop into shallow right field Friday night that he didn't know what to think.

At first he couldn't believe that Astros reliever Edgar Gonzalez threw him a 3-2 changeup with the bases loaded. Then he was upset after it seemed certain that the ball wasn't going to fall and second baseman Jake Elmore was right underneath it, prepared to make the catch that would send the game to extra innings.

“Then I'm getting close to first base and realizing that right fielder's coming in hot right now,” Martin said. “I'm like, ‘Is he going to crash into him?' and then I saw it happen. It was really funny how it happened. It wasn't like one of those big rushes, like, ‘Yes, I just won the game.' It was more like amazement of ‘I can't believe this just happened. They just gave us the game.

“It felt like, ‘I'm happy, but I don't feel like I succeeded, but we still won, so I'm going to take it but it's just weird right now.' ”

According to Elias Sports Bureau, the last time a major league game was decided on a walk-off dropped popup or dropped fly ball was June 12, 2009, when Mets second baseman Luis Castillo dropped a popup off the bat of the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez that allowed the tying and winning runs to score.

A number of the Pirates' development staff, including Tom Prince, Brad Fischer, Gary Green and Jeff Livesey, have been with the team in recent days, and manager Clint Hurdle said he told them they should share video of the play with managers in their minor league system.

“You can take that tape down to West Virginia, you can take that down to Bradenton, and when those young managers are pulling their hair out because the kids aren't playing the game and fundamentally executing, show them a big league game and say, ‘Wow. It can happen,' ” Hurdle said.

Mechanical adjustments working for Hughes

With Jose Contreras on the bereavement list, Jared Hughes is back with the Pirates after being optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis on May 3. The right-hander said he, Indians manager Dean Treanor and pitching coach Tom Filer have been working on ways to get his timing back and make sure he's moving properly.

“We've been working on some mechanical adjustments — a few really important ones — to get back to where I was last year when I was getting the ground balls and consistent sinkers in the zone,” said Hughes, who did not allow a run in six appearances (6 23 innings) with Indianapolis. “I put a lot of work into that, and I'm going to continue to work on it, but I feel like I'm in a much better place.”

Odds and ends

Hurdle said as of Saturday afternoon he hadn't decided whether Michael McKenry would catch Sunday. With Monday's off day, he said, he could turn to Martin again as long as Martin felt OK. … James McDonald is scheduled to throw a bullpen session Tuesday. … Hurdle also said that at some point the Pirates likely would consider sending John McDonald (back and elbow) on a rehab assignment. … Jeff Karstens threw 62 pitches in his first rehab start with Double-A Altoona on Saturday. He allowed two runs and two hits, walked two and struck out four. Infielder Chase d'Arnaud also began his rehab assignment with Double-A Altoona. … Hurdle said the rotation for next week is not set.

Karen Price is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach her at or via Twitter @KarenPrice_Trib.

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