PITTSBURGH -- Though John Russell held Lastings Milledge out of the lineup for the fourth time in the team's past five games on Tuesday, the Pittsburgh manager said that the outfielder will still get plenty of playing time moving forward.
Milledge lost his starting job in left field with the arrival of Jose Tabata last week. That means that, as things stand now, Milledge will split playing time in right with Ryan Church and, to a lesser extent, Delwyn Young. Who plays on a given day will largely be determined by matchups, Russell said.
"We're trying to get Church going a little bit, but Lastings is going to get plenty of opportunities as well," Russell said. "Lastings has swung the bat pretty well for us as of late. We're not going to just make him a bench player."
Still, Milledge missed his opportunity to show the Pirates that he deserves to be an everyday outfielder with this club. He still hasn't hit a home run this season, and he entered Tuesday with a .255 batting average and 17 RBIs.
Church, though, hasn't fared any better recently. His season average has dipped to .186 with a 6-for-61 stretch that dates back to May 6. The hope is that the dismal five-week period has largely been due to Church's bruised right wrist, which only recently fully healed, and a bout with the stomach flu.
"He's just now playing pain-free, sick-free and it's just getting back into his routine," Russell said. "He's proven throughout his career that he's going to hit. It's just a matter of him getting back on track."
Of course, these right-field plans could change if Steve Pearce returns to the big league club after he finishes his rehab stint. If Pearce rejoins the Pirates, he'd likely get the majority of the starts at first base. That would shift Garrett Jones to right field on a regular basis.