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Pirates pitcher Maholm sharp in debut |

Pirates pitcher Maholm sharp in debut

| Sunday, March 1, 2009 12:00 a.m

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Paul Maholm actually did break a sweat Saturday while pitching a pair of 1-2-3 innings against the Houston Astros.

“It was hot out there,” said Maholm, wiping his brow with a towel in the clubhouse during the Pirates’ 6-5 victory.

It certainly wasn’t due to the opposition. Maholm (1-0) needed just 23 pitches — all fastballs and change-ups — to mow down the six he faced in his spring training debut.

Three of the first five outs were bouncers to the shortstop. Two were strikeouts. The only batter to hit the ball with any authority was Lance Berkman, who flew out to center.

“My goal was to get out of it in 25 pitches or less,” Maholm said. “If I missed on a pitch, it was a pretty easy adjustment, which is always good this early. I just need to get ready, make sure my breaking balls are getting better.”

Snell vs. the world

Today, right-hander Ian Snell will join Puerto Rico’s team for the World Baseball Classic. If Puerto Rico makes the semifinals, Snell could be away from the Pirates for three weeks.

“I’d be fibbing if I said I wasn’t concerned we’re not going to see him for a while,” manager John Russell said. “But I don’t want to take anything away from what he’s doing. It’s an honor, and he’s looking forward to it. We’ll stay in close touch so we can monitor what he’s doing.”

Puerto Rico will train in Fort Myers, Fla., before beginning tourney play. Larry Corrigan, a special assistant to Pirates general manager Neal Huntington, lives nearby and will keep an eye on Snell.

“There’ll be people watching,” Russell said.

Mom’s got game

Monroe says he got his athletic ability from his mother. She was a talented basketball and fast-pitch softball player in Texarkana, Texas, but stopped playing sports when she got pregnant as a teenager.

“She’s awesome. She’s been my motivation,” Monroe said. “Having me at a young age, she had to give up her dreams. I feel like she plays through me, and I play for her. In Texarkana, everybody talks about her. It’s fun for me to have talent, but getting it from my mom, not my dad. That’s pretty cool.”

His mom’s name is … you guessed it … Marilyn Monroe.

“She takes more crap about it than I do,” Monroe said. “Every time she calls the doctor or anything and tells them her name, they’re like, ‘No way.’ It’s pretty funny.”

A first in the second

Matt Capps tossed a scoreless inning Wednesday in the 8-2 victory over Philadelphia. The Pirates used nine relievers in the game, and he came in against the Phillies in the second inning.

“I don’t think ever in my big league career have I thrown in the second inning,” Capps said. “It’s been a while.”

In the minors, Capps originally was groomed as a starter. That plan met with disastrous results — he had a 10.07 ERA in 2004 at Class A Hickory — and he was switched to the bullpen.

“As a starter, I didn’t make it to the second inning very often,” Capps said.

Planet of the aches

Outfielder Eric Hinske (ribcage) is expected to be out until mid-week. … Infielder Luis Cruz (hip) took infield practice and might cleared to play as soon as Monday. … Right-hander Virgil Vasquez (arm) threw Friday without any setbacks.

Around the horn

The Pirates hit four homers. Brandon Moss, Craig Monroe and Robinzon Diaz hit solo shots. Jeff Salazar smacked a two-run homer. … It was a busy day for shortstop Brian Bixler. He had a hand in six of the first nine put-outs and doubled off the wall in left-center. Bixler also made a throwing error, which led to an unearned run. … Jimmy Barthmaier will start today against the Detroit Tigers. Chris Bootcheck, Sean Burnett and Tyler Yates also are slated to pitch.

Additional Information:

Today’s game

Tigers vs. Pirates

1:05 p.m. · McKenchnie Field, Bradenton, Fla.

Radio: WPGB-FM (104.7)

Pirates probable starter: RHP Jimmy Barthmaier

Astros probable starter: RHP Justin Verlander

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