Notebook: McClendon offers small-market suggestion
Nothing against the city of Cleveland or its fans, but all things considered, Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon would rather be playing Philadelphia this weekend.
Or San Diego. Or New York. Or … you get the point.
“I’d rather get back to playing the National League,” McClendon said.
The interleague portion of the Pirates’ schedule ends this weekend with a three-game series against the Indians, an interstate rivalry that has taken place every season but one since interleague play began in 1997.
When the Indians visited here two years ago, the Pirates swept a three-game series that was one of the few highlights in a 100-loss season.
McClendon dislikes interleague play, but if it is going to be forced down his throat, he’s glad to see the rebuilding Indians coming to town. He thinks the Pirates should be playing teams of similar market size and/or record.
He wishes that, for interleague purposes, baseball would take an NFL-like approach and have comparable teams play each other as a way to create parity.
“I think there’s a lot of merit to what I said,” McClendon said. “You talk about everything that is right about football and the parity it has. If you truly want it in baseball and you want the smaller markets to be more competitive, you should have the smaller markets play each other. It just makes sense.
“Put us all on an even playing field. You want our records to be better; don’t put us up against Boston or the Yankees. Let us compete against Cleveland, Detroit, Kansas City and Tampa Bay. That’s an even playing field. Let the big boys go battle it out with each other.”
Outfielder Brian Giles, who was traded by the Indians after the 1998 season, thinks the interleague luster between Cleveland and Pittsburgh has worn off, mainly because the Indians no longer are a perennial playoff team.
“You don’t have the name players coming in here that you had in the past,” he said. “It might be different, but I’m sure the people in both cities will have fun this weekend.”
Before the game, the Pirates held a moment of silence for Hall of Famer Larry Doby, who passed away Wednesday after a long illness.
Doby was the first black player in the American League. He made his major-league debut 11 weeks after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947. He also was the second black manager in major-league history.
A seven-time All-Star with the Cleveland Indians, Doby was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans’ Committee in 1998.
McClendon met Doby on a couple of occasions.
“His contributions were stuff that legends are made of,” McClendon said. “It’s very unfortunate and an untimely death. Sometimes, I think that in the process of things he gets overlooked a bit. He’s not the big-named guy who came along first. But he certainly was one of the pioneers.”
ALL THAT IS LEFT
After facing one left-handed starter in the past 26 games, the Pirates will face a trio of lefties this weekend against the Indians: Brian Tallet, Billy Traber and C.C. Sabathia.
“We haven’t seen that many, that’s for sure,” McClendon said.
The Pirates are 5-7 when the opposition starts a left-handed starter this season, but are 1-6 at PNC Park.
“We’ll have to switch the lineup around a little bit,” McClendon said. “Guys will play who haven’t had as much playing time.”
Kenny Lofton, who started all games against the Expos within a 24-hour span, probably won’t start tonight. Adam Hyzdu, Craig Wilson and Kevin Young could be fixtures in the lineup this weekend.
Reggie Sanders did not start in the field for the fifth consecutive game because of slow-healing right hamstring injury. He was relegated to pinch-hitting duty in both games of the doubleheader Wednesday after being used as a designated hitter in interleague road games Saturday and Sunday. He walked as a pinch-hitter yesterday in the seventh inning and left for a pinch-runner after drawing a walk.
McClendon expects Sanders to return to the lineup tonight when the Pirates face a left-handed starter. That means Matt Stairs probably will be on the bench. Stairs has gone 13 for 28 with four doubles, two homers and four RBI since returning from the disabled list.
“It helps to have Stairs swinging the bat as well as he’s been swinging it,” McClendon said. “That takes the sting out of Reggie not being in the lineup.”
The Pirates will be involved in free autograph sessions at Sandcastle today and two Giant Eagle locations Saturday. Signing at Sandcastle today from noon to 1 p.m. will be Josh Fogg and Kip Wells. Four players will be signing Saturday at the Waterfront Giant Eagle in Homestead: Julian Tavarez and Salomon Torres (11 a.m. to noon) and Scott Sauerbeck and Ryan Vogelsong (noon to 1 p.m.). Signing at the Giant Eagle in Cranberry will be Craig Wilson and Jeff D’Amico (11 a.m. to noon) and Randall Simon and Brian Boehringer (noon to 1 p.m.).
In addition, coaches Gerald Perry, Bruce Tanner, John Russell, Pete Mackanin and Alvaro Espinoza will conduct a youth baseball clinic at Rankin Field beginning at 10 a.m.
BACK TO BACK
Mike Lincoln, thought to be “a ways away” from pitching back-to-back games on his injury-rehabilitation assignment, did just that by pitching one scoreless inning Wednesday night for Class AAA Nashville.
Could that be a sign Lincoln is close to rejoining the Pirates?
“He’s progressing well,” McClendon said. “Anything’s a possibility.”