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Pirates notebook: Ishikawa gets another starting nod

| Friday, April 4, 2014, 7:51 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates first baseman Travis Ishikawa hits a solo homer during the fourth inning against the Cardinals on Friday, April 4, 2014, at PNC Park.

This spring, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said there would not be a “cookie-cutter” platoon at first base, meaning right-handed hitting Gaby Sanchez would not be relegated to starting solely against left-handed pitching.

This winter, Pirates general manager Neal Huntington expressed confidence Sanchez could handle the lion's share of playing time at first base if the club did not upgrade the position externally. Sanchez has a career .700 on-base plus slugging percentage against right-handed pitching and a career .899 OPS against left-handed pitching.

But for the fourth straight game to open the season, the Pirates faced a right-handed starting pitcher, the Cardinals' Shelby Miller, and for a fourth straight game, Sanchez was not in the lineup Friday. His replacement, Travis Ishikawa, hit his first home run of the season.

“I wanted Ishikawa involved in the lineup based on how he swung in spring training and to see if we could continue with some traction,” Hurdle said. “But there is a little bit of a common factor where we are looking to give (Sanchez) the best chance to have some success early on.”

Perhaps the common factor placing Sanchez on the bench is right-handed velocity.

Miller (93.7 mph in 2013) and the three right-handed pitchers the Cubs started against the Pirates — Jeff Samardzija (94.3), Edwin Jackson (92.3) and Jason Hammel (92.7) — possess above-average fastball velocity. Sanchez is a combined 2 for 25 with nine strikeouts against the four in his career.

Hurdle indicated Sanchez would start Sunday against Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright, who lacks premium fastball velocity. Hurdle examines a database of comparable pitchers plus past performance to determine the lineup card.

Hurdle said the early lineup decisions are designed in part to give opportunities to some players, noting Travis Snider also started a fourth straight game in right field.

“I do think it's important that we get some of these guys (opportunities),” Hurdle said.

McCutchen prophetic

The Pirates scored just seven runs on 20 hits in 35 innings in the three-game series against the Cubs. They scored six runs in a three-game series against the Cubs to open the 2013 season.

Before the game, Andrew McCutchen said not to panic.

“I don't want to sound like a broken record, but I kind of said it last year,” he said of the lack of early offense. “It's going to turn around. I hope quicker than last year, but I'm not really worried about it too much.”

The Pirates responded with 16 hits in their 12-2 victory Friday. McCutchen went 2 for 5 with a triple.

Nothing to see here

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny was surprised by the national reaction to Matt Adams pushing a fan in Cincinnati on Thursday.

Adams was reaching into the stands to catch a foul ball, and a fan seated in the first row beat him to it.

Afterward, Adams, a Slippery Rock product, extended his glove hand and lightly pushed the fan on the shoulder. It became a hot topic of conversation Friday across social media.

“With the naked eye, I saw nothing,” said Matheny, who as of Friday evening had heard nothing from the league about the interaction. “I guess if you slow down the tape, it looks like something.”

Pepper games

The Pirates did not have an update on prospect Jameson Taillon (elbow). Taillon received a second opinion on his elbow Monday. ... Relief pitchers Jeanmar Gomez and Stolmy Pimentel were not available Friday because of their workloads in the Cubs series. … Pitcher-turned-slugger prospect Stetson Allie, who was slowed by an oblique injury in spring training, joined Double-A Altoona on Friday and is expected to be the starting first baseman. Outfielder Junior Sosa was assigned to Jamestown.

Staff writer Karen Price contributed. Travis Sawchik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at tsawchik@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Sawchik_Trib.

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