Notes: McLeary to make most of shot

Notes: McLeary to make most of shot

SAN DIEGO -- There might not be a happier player in the Pirates' clubhouse right now than Marty McLeary.

After spending 10 years bussing around the Minor Leagues with five different organizations, the 31-year-old McLeary will make his first career Major League start Sunday afternoon against the Padres.

McLeary has more than paid his dues toiling in the Minor Leagues, and he's ready to make the most of his moment in the spotlight.

"This is a great opportunity," McLeary said. "As a pitcher, the ultimate goal is to get into a Major League rotation. Here is my opportunity to try to show them that I can be in the rotation and see what the future holds."

Although McLeary understands that he is a long shot to earn a spot in the Pittsburgh rotation next season, he's hopeful that his right-handedness will persuade the southpaw-laden Bucs to give him a shot.

"There are a lot of lefties here. Maybe coming from the right side might help me out a little bit in the rotation," said McLeary. "That's the way I look at it. I don't try to read into it any more than I have to."

Pirates manager Jim Tracy, ever mindful of McLeary's journeyman experience, is happy to be the guy to give McLeary his first shot at a start in the big leagues.

"When you see cases like this, it's heartwarming," Tracy said. "You love to see this kind of stuff."

However, the Bucs skipper is quick to point out that he's not throwing McLeary out there as some kind of charity case. Tracy compared McLeary's situation to that of productive Dodgers veteran Giovanni Carrara.

"When you have situations like this, you also find diamonds in the rough like this that end up becoming a very valuable asset to a ballclub and to a winning environment," Tracy said.

McLeary, who started 13 games with Triple-A Indianapolis, has tossed a total of just 5 2/3 innings in three relief appearances since joining the Pirates on Aug. 29, but he's managed to keep his arm strength up by throwing bullpen sessions every other day. He's not worried about fatigue being an issue Sunday.

"I'll go until [Tracy] comes out of dugout and takes the ball away from me," said McLeary. "I've got it in my head that I'll go out there and go as hard as I can for as long as I can."

Maholm back in the mix: Rookie southpaw Paul Maholm, whose turn was skipped the last time through the rotation due to a stiff left shoulder, threw on flat ground Friday afternoon. He's scheduled to throw a bullpen session on Wednesday at PNC Park.

If Maholm does not suffer any setbacks along the way, he will return for his final start of the season next Saturday against the Astros.

"I long-tossed today and it felt better now than it has in a month," said Maholm.

Maholm, who has pitched a professional career-high 176 innings this season, began experiencing stiffness between starts in August, but he was able to recover in time to pitch his scheduled bullpen sessions. When the stiffness began lasting more than a few days, he decided it was time to err on the side of caution.

"With the wear and tear, I wasn't able to bounce as quickly as I needed to," said Maholm. "It wasn't anything major. I just needed some extra days."

Considering the fact that Maholm has won five of his last six decisions, he wasn't exactly anxious to take any time off.

"It's disappointing," he said. "But I've got to make sure that I am healthy when I go out there."

If Maholm is unable to start next Saturday, southpaw Shane Youman will likely take his spot in the rotation.

Snell to go twice? Tracy has lined up the starting rotation so that Ian Snell will have two chances to win his 15th game, but it's no sure bet that Snell will pitch in the season finale next Sunday.

If Snell wins his 15th game Tuesday against the Astros, Tracy would prefer to have the right-hander sit out the finale so that there is no chance that he could be injured in a freak play.

"If he wins a game Tuesday, there's a real strong chance that he won't pitch Sunday," said Tracy.

Gonzo getting close: Pirates closer Mike Gonzalez, who has been sidelined by left elbow tendinitis since Aug. 24, threw 20 pitches in a bullpen session Thursday. He'll pitch off the mound again Saturday, and the plan is for him to return to action in a non-closing role during the final homestand.

"He will pitch before season's end," Tracy said.

Kiner's corner: Boston's David Ortiz clubbed his 51st and 52nd home runs on Thursday to break a franchise record of 50 home runs in a season that was set by Jimmy Foxx in 1938.

According to Elias Sports, the oldest remaining single-season home run records that remain are Foxx's 74-year-old mark with the A's, Hank Greenberg's 68-year-old record with the Tigers and Ralph Kiner's 57-year-old record with the Bucs. Kiner established a Pirates record with 54 home runs in 1949.

On deck: The Pirates and Padres will continue their weekend series Saturday night at 7:05 p.m. PT at PETCO Park. Southpaw Zach Duke (10-13, 4.49 ERA) will take the hill for the Bucs against San Diego right-hander Jake Peavy (9-14, 4.25 ERA).

Ed Eagle is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.