Jones finds batting stroke

Garrett Jones is a big man at 6-feet-4, but he is at his best only with a short swing.

Heading into this weekend, the Pirates' right fielder was slumping at .172 and losing at-bats to Matt Diaz. But he broke out in a huge way in the first three games in Cincinnati, reaching base 10 times and homering twice. Perhaps most impressively, he went to the opposite field in the Pirates' 7-6 victory Sunday. He has shown little power going that way since that 21-homer rookie breakout two years ago.

"It's all starting to come into place and feel better," Jones said. "I feel like I'm using my hands a lot better. I've hit some balls well the past few days, and I'm just going to try to keep that going, keep that consistent."

Manager Clint Hurdle observed that Jones had been well out of his usually compact form.

"Guys get locked up from time to time for different reasons," Hurdle said. "Normally, there's just too much noise going on upstairs. Garrett just needs to keep it simple. Hopefully, we've been able to simplify some things for him. He's shown some traction this series especially, for the first time all year. There's been some consistency."

That will be pivotal for the Pirates, who are no better than average in production or power and need to find both from all parts of their lineup. To that end, Jones will continue to platoon with Diaz in right field, as both have a history of faring well against pitchers from the opposite side.

"We need him involved in the offense," Hurdle said of Jones.

* CF Andrew McCutchen had an awful debut as a leadoff hitter Friday, going 0-for-5 with four strikeouts, but he has rebounded in a big way, reaching base eight times in 10 plate appearances in the past two games, including all five Sunday. "Just to be able to come through feels great," said McCutchen, who went 3-for-3 with a home run and two walks. "I'm just comfortable hitting in general. It doesn't matter where I am in the order. I'm starting to feel good. Watch out."

* RHP Jeff Karstens made his first start Sunday in place of injured RHP Ross Ohlendorf, and he was charged with five runs and eight hits over 4 1/3 innings. Because he was coming out of the bullpen, he was limited to approximately 70-75 pitches, manager Clint Hurdle said. He threw 76. Ohlendorf threw off flat ground for the first time, but he almost surely will not come off the disabled list when eligible April 23.

* RHP James McDonald's fastball velocity was down to 90-91 mph when giving up seven runs in 4 1/3 innings Saturday, capped by a 91-mph fastball that Cincinnati's Ramon Hernandez clubbed for a second-deck grand slam. McDonald had been sitting at 94-95 mph consistently when he pitched well for Pittsburgh down the stretch. He and the Pirates maintained that his early issues are more about location than stuff. "If you leave balls up in the strike zone like that, more often than not, they're going to end up in the seats," Hurdle said.

* C Chris Snyder is back in the fold and looking surprisingly sharp at and behind the plate, but continue to expect C Ryan Doumit to get playing time, at least one start every three games. Snyder is coming off a strained lower back that cost him a month, and manager Clint Hurdle said, "We're not going to run him into the ground."

By The Numbers: 20—Strikeouts for struggling third baseman Pedro Alvarez, more than anyone in the majors through Sunday.

Quote To Note: "If nothing else, the ire of going 0-for-5 with four punchouts, that can light a fuse, too. He's got a lot of professional pride." —Manager Clint Hurdle, on Andrew McCutchen following his 0-for-5 Friday by reaching base eight times in his next 10 plate appearances.

Roster Report
Medical Watch:

* RHP Ross Ohlendorf (strained right shoulder) went on the 15-day disabled list April 9. He threw off flat ground for the first time on April 17.

* RHP Jose Ascanio (right elbow tightness) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 22. The timetable for his return was unknown.

* LHP Scott Olsen (left hamstring strain) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 22. The injury wasn't considered serious.

* RHP Brad Lincoln (bruised right forearm) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 22. He began a rehab assignment with Class AAA Indianapolis on April 10.

* RHP Kevin Hart (right shoulder surgery in May 2010) went on the 60-day disabled list March 18. He should be able to return by midseason.

Pirates Dugout Top Stories