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Pirates to shut down starter Ohlendorf

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'American Coyotes' Series

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, Sept. 13, 2009

HOUSTON — Right-hander Ross Ohlendorf's season will end a couple of weeks before the Pirates wrap things up. Ohlendorf's innings pitched total is in the red zone, so the Pirates are ready to shut him down.

"It's gonna be tough," manager John Russell said. "He's fun to watch. You talk to him, and he'll tell you there's a lot he wants to accomplish."

Ohlendorf went into Saturday night's game against Houston already having pitched 163.1 innings this season. A 24-percent increase over last season and the second-highest total of his career.

"When he gets between 170 and 180 (innings), we'll probably shut him down," Russell said.

Russell pointed to research, which indicates many pitchers who exceed their previous year's total by 40-plus innings end up with serious injuries.

"I want this guy to be pitching for us for a lot of years," Russell said. "It's not worth the risk to give him one or two more starts."

When Ohlendorf is out of the rotation, Russell's first option will be to piggyback pitchers. Donnie Veal, Jeff Karstens, Virgil Vasquez and Denny Bautista are candidates.

Young slumps

Hitless in his past 22 at-bats, Delwyn Young was benched yesterday for the third time in six games.

He had two hits Sept. 1, which snapped an 0 for 16 slide. Over the past 16 games, Young's batting average has dropped 42 points to .269.

"It's the combination of a lot of things," Russell said. "Playing more, maybe wearing down a little bit. He's putting a lot of emphasis on his defense right now. He's putting in a lot of overtime."

World Cup

Pedro Alvarez went 0 for 4 yesterday in Team USA's 8-0 rout of China in the World Cup. Alvarez has started all three games for Team USA (1-2) and batted .154 (2 for 13, including a homer) with two RBI. Round 2 begins today.

Game balls

Reliever Jesse Chavez did not get the baseball last Sunday after recording his first career victory.

"Offense picked me up," Chavez said. "They won it."

Chavez nearly lost the game after allowing a go-ahead homer in the ninth inning by Rick Ankiel. The Pirates scored two runs in the bottom of the inning to win it.

On night earlier, Ohlendorf struck out the side on nine pitches. He realized right away what he'd done but did not grab the memento as he came of the mound. First baseman Steve Pearce tossed the ball into the stands as he ran into the dugout.

"If I had known it was that rare, I'd have asked Pearce for the ball,"

Ohlendorf said. "Some kid probably has it now."

Mr. Ohlendorf goes to Washington

Most players spend the offseason either playing winter ball or training in either Florida or Arizona. Ohlendorf has a different plan: working an internship for the Department of Agriculture in Washington.

From mid-October to mid-December, Ohlendorf will work on a project which traces livestock diseases. He got the job after sending an e-mail to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsak's office. In June, Vilsak, a Pittsburgh native, threw out a first pitch at PNC Park.

Could Ohlendorf be setting himself up for a post-baseball career?

"Well, I don't know if you can say I have friends (in Washington) yet, but ..." said Ohlendorf, smiling.

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