Notes: LaRoche back in lineup

Notes: LaRoche back in lineup

PITTSBURGH -- First baseman Adam LaRoche was back in the Pirates lineup for their Friday night encounter with the San Francisco Giants at PNC Park.

LaRoche, who missed Wednesday's game with St. Louis, has been suffering from a lower back strain. He was penciled into the No. 4 slot in the batting order on Friday.

"I can't say it's 100 percent," LaRoche said. "It's definitely good enough to play. There's still some tightness, but there is not the pinching or the sharp pain that I had even a little bit yesterday. [I] came in yesterday and put some work in on the off day and it feels pretty good."

LaRoche is struggling, coming into the game sporting a .097 batting average with one home run and one RBI.

"I think it's going to take not hitting balls good," LaRoche said. "I think I need to break a few bats and duck snort balls in there and get some base hits or something to get going. I'm looking out and seeing 15 defenders out there right now. It just feels like there are no holes and when I do hit one good, it's right at somebody."

Pirates hitting coach Jeff Manto is convinced LaRoche will break out of his batting funk soon.

"He knows what he's doing, he knows how to pace himself. He knows what he needs to do for a season," Manto said. "Although the numbers aren't what he wants, I don't care if you don't do well in April or May, you still want those months to be respectable. I know it bothers him, but he's professional enough to know, and we're intelligent enough to know that it's not going to last all year long.

"He comes here as the guy we were looking for with a whole lot of responsibility and it's new to him. In years past, he was surrounded by Chipper and Andruw Jones, and now he is the guy and it takes some adjustment."

Grabow at Indy: Reliever John Grabow joined the Pirates' Triple-A affiliate in Indianapolis to begin a rehabilitation stint. The Indians opened a series in Richmond on Friday.

"He arrived today," Tracy reported. "There was some thought that he was going to pitch [Friday], [but] he is not pitching [Friday]. He's going to pitch [Saturday] and he's going to pitch on Monday and he's scheduled to pitch on Wednesday."

Grabow has been on the disabled list since March 23 with left elbow irritation. He has thrown pain-free since then, including two innings in an extended Spring Training game Wednesday in Bradenton, Fla.

Bonds fan: LaRoche admitted that he will take a peek at San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds during batting practice.

"Oh, absolutely -- I don't think you're human if don't want to go out and watch that guy," LaRoche said. "Every move he makes is pretty special. It's neat, and I think it's especially cool for the young guys that haven't [seen] him much, to get out and see what he does."

Minor matters: Cuban import Yoslan Herrera had a solid pro debut for the Double-A Altoona Curve on Wednesday, showing little rust. Herrera, 25, allowed one earned run in five innings, fanning two and issuing one free pass. He received a no-decision as the Curve downed Akron, 4-3, in 10 innings.

Herrera compiled an 18-7 record and 3.27 ERA pitching professionally in Cuba. He defected after being left off the nation's Olympic roster in 2004. He landed in the Dominican Republic and impressed the Bucs during a tryout in August.

The Pirates signed the pitcher, who turns 26 on April 28, to a three-year contract worth $1.92 million in December.

Altoona pitching coach Ray Searage liked what he saw from Herrera.

"He did an excellent job," Searage said. "I didn't think he'd have that good of a feel for his curveball, and his changeup was working outstanding with the command.

"All his pitches were down in the zone, had good command, very good poise on the mound. Very positive outing for him and something to build on."

Seeing red: The Pirates wore their new red sleeveless jerseys for the first time this season in Friday's game against the Giants. The Pirates will wear their new jerseys during selected home dates.

On deck: The Pirates face the Giants in the second game of a three-game set on Saturday at 7:05 p.m. ET. Right-hander Tony Armas (0-1, 13.50 ERA) will get the start for the Bucs. The Giants will counter with lefty Barry Zito (0-2, 8.18 ERA).

George Von Benko is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.