Notes: Duke receives good news

Notes: Duke receives good news

PITTSBURGH -- Pirates starter Zach Duke saw well-known orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., on Friday morning and received the same diagnosis of his left elbow that had been given to him earlier in the week.

Dr. Andrews was scheduled to review the arthrogram that Duke had done at Allegheny General Hospital on Monday, and afterward, Dr. Andrews agreed that there is no structural damage in Duke's left elbow. The diagnosis remains irritation in the ulnar collateral ligament.

Following his visit with Dr. Andrews, Duke headed to Bradenton, Fla., which is where he will remain until at least the end of the month. Duke will continue taking anti-inflammatory medication and, at minimum, will take two weeks off from throwing before beginning a rehabilitation schedule.

Manager Jim Tracy said that the rehabilitation program will not begin until Duke is asymptomatic, in other words, when Duke tells team physicians that there is no discomfort at all in his pitching arm. And Tracy added that it is hard to put a timetable on the rehab process because "no two people are the same."

Duke had exercised his option to seek a second opinion on his elbow earlier this week, saying that he just needed some peace of mind that the elbow injury wasn't any more serious than the initial arthrogram had shown.

"This is my first arm injury ever," said Duke, who was 3-7 with a 5.79 ERA before going on the disabled list. "It's kind of a scary situation ... for me. It's scary for me to have to miss time with something like this and not having dealt with something like this before. It's just uncharted territory for me."

Stolen 'Bay'-ses: When Jason Bay stole second base during the eighth inning of Thursday's game against the Brewers, it was another encouraging sign that he is feeling less hesitant to be aggressive on the bases with his surgically repaired knee.

"I thought I was going to get there a little quicker than I was," Bay joked afterward.

In all seriousness, however, it has taken the Pirates left fielder, who underwent surgery on his left knee during the offseason, until the middle of this year to feel comfortable enough to take some chances on the bases. Before Thursday's stolen base, Bay had made only two other stolen base attempts this season. But he said he feels good enough now to start taking some more chances.

"That's something that I feel better at [doing] when given opportunities, but I just haven't been on base that much to use it," said Bay, who has only 14 hits in his last 101 at-bats. "Hopefully it's something that, [during] these last few months, I can get back to doing."

When Bay arrived in Pittsburgh, he was noted for his above-average speed, and it initially showed. The left fielder stole a career-high 21 bases in 2005 before that number dropped to 11 last year.

LaRoche lift-off: Adam LaRoche's recent offensive tear is reminiscent of the one he went on at about this time last year with Atlanta. But when asked if he felt as good as he did during that post-All-Star stretch last season, LaRoche needed a second to dig into the memory bank.

"I don't have that good of a memory," joked LaRoche, who has hit .459 with five home runs and 11 RBIs in his past nine games. "I remember some streaks being really locked in, but I think I was walking more. I think when I get where I am right now, even if it's a strike, I'm not chasing something I can't do something with."

Part of LaRoche's success last season came after Braves manager Bobby Cox stopped giving the first baseman as many days off against left-handers. That hasn't been a problem this season, as LaRoche has been the everyday first baseman since he arrived in Pittsburgh, but he doesn't discount the fact that getting out of the platoon role then is playing a role now one year later.

"For two and a half years, I had a lot of days off," LaRoche said. "I always knew it was at least a couple days a week that I wasn't playing. I could get on a tear for a couple games and then possibly sit two in a row. Right now, I know every day I'm out there. I got a little taste of it last year. That was the first time in the big leagues that I could come to the ballpark and not have to look at the lineup."

Revolving rotation: As expected, Ian Snell will start the Pirates' first game back after the All-Star break next Friday. He will be followed by Tom Gorzelanny and Paul Maholm in Atlanta. John Van Benschoten and Shane Youman will then round out the rotation and begin the following home series against Colorado.

Pearce recognized: On Friday, Double-A Altoona first baseman Steven Pearce was named the Eastern League Player of the Month for his offensive performance in June. Over the course of the month, Pearce batted .404 with eight home runs and 34 RBIs.

Pearce, the Pirates' eight-round Draft pick in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, will have an opportunity to showcase his skills on Sunday in San Francisco, when he participates in the Major League Baseball Future's Game. Later in the week, Pearce will travel to Norwich, Conn., to play on the Eastern League All-Star team.

On deck: Still looking for his first win of the season, Van Benschoten (0-2, 4.35 ERA) will take the mound for Pittsburgh on Saturday against Ted Lily (7-4, 3.84 ERA) and the Cubs. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. ET at PNC Park.

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