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Trade rumor catches Bucs' Morgan off-guard

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Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Sunday, June 28, 2009
 

One way to tell a player has reached household-name status is when his name starts popping up in trade rumors.

Welcome to the show, Nyjer Morgan.

Friday night, a report surfaced that the Pirates might send Morgan to the Washington Nationals for outfielder Lastings Milledge. Talks hit a snag when the Pirates asked for right-hander Craig Stammen.

The Pirates would prefer to add a starting pitcher or middle infielder rather than another outfielder. Pitcher Ian Snell's future with the club is murky, at best, after his demotion last week to Triple-A. Second baseman Freddy Sanchez and/or shortstop Jack Wilson could be moved by the July 31 trade deadline.

Morgan first heard the trade talk on Saturday afternoon, when he got a text message while on his way to PNC Park.

"I've never been in this situation, so it's kind of new to me," Morgan said. "It is (flattering) because it means I've opened up some other teams' eyes and they think I can help out their organization, too.

"I guess it's one of those business things," Morgan said. "I'm going to keep going out there and keep playing. If something happens, it happens. I can't really worry about it."

Morgan is batting .267 with a pair of homers. He is tied for third in the National League with 18 stolen bases.

If Morgan is dealt, who would mentor rookie center fielder Andrew McCutchen?

"I heard Lastings Milledge," Morgan said with a laugh.

Milledge, 24, is a native of Bradenton, Fla., the site of the Pirates' spring training camp. He's played in just 260 games over four seasons in the majors and has a career .261 batting average with 25 home runs.

He was the New York Mets' first-round draft pick in 2003. However, Milledge ran afoul of his teammates and management for high-fiving fans and showing up late on game days.

In November 2007, Milledge was traded to Washington for Ryan Church and Brian Schneider. This season, he hit .167 in seven games — and also blew off a team meeting and took lazy routes to fly balls — and was demoted to Triple-A.

Friday, Milledge, who is recovering from a broken ring finger, began a rehab assignment in the rookie Gulf Coast League.

More kudos for 'Cutch'

Wilson has seen plenty of newbies come and go during his eight seasons in the majors. He especially is impressed with the way McCutchen has handled himself so far.

"It's the fact that he's been hyped so much that he's used to it," Wilson said. "I don't think this is pressure at all to him. Being a first-rounder and all that stuff that comes with it, like the way fans treated him on the road in the minor leagues, he's handled it pretty good.

"We're not surprised. He's been in (spring) camp with us every year since he's been drafted, and that doesn't happen too often. Usually, you see them once and then they're gone. He definitely deserves to be here. He's ready."

Interleague success

The Pirates posted a winning record against the American League just once since interleague play began in 1997. In 2001, they beat Kansas City in two of final three games to go 8-7 against the AL.

The Pirates went into this weekend's series against the Royals again needing to win a pair to secure a winning interleague record. The Pirates were 7-6 going into last night's game.

"We've played well," PIrates manager John Russell said. "But they're just games. I thought we did OK last year (going 6-9). We've done OK this year. I'm not too worried about interleague play, as far as the record. We still want to win."

Minor matters

Righty Daniel Moskos reached season highs in innings (7.1) and strikeouts (seven) on Friday, but got a no-decision in Double-A Altoona's 6-3 loss to Bowie. Moskos was in line for the victory until the Curve bullpen allowed five runs over the final three innings.

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