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Russell open to batting pitcher eighth

Russell open to batting pitcher eighth

PITTSBURGH -- Manager John Russell toyed with the idea of batting his pitchers eighth in the beginning of the season, but decided to keep it in the workshop.

On June 29, Russell brought it out for the first time, and now is beginning to see the effects, as witnessed during the Pirates' 4-2 win over the Yankees on Thursday night.

No. 9 hitter Jack Wilson led off the third, fifth and seventh innings after starting pitcher Paul Maholm struck out three times the innings before.

The result?

The Pirates scored on all three occasions.

"With games like last night, it makes us look like we know what we're doing," Russell said with a laugh. "It worked out for us. We feel like it does enable you to create some more scoring opportunities."

Russell and his staff also looked at the numbers. The difference in at-bats between the No. 8 and No. 9 hitters is slim. He also looked at Tony La Russa's lineup in St. Louis, which also bats the pitcher eighth, and liked how the Cardinals had an extra hitter in front of the always dangerous Albert Pujols.

That scenario got Russell thinking: Why couldn't the Pirates' first-year skipper do the same with Ryan Doumit, Jason Bay, Xavier Nady and the now hot-hitting Adam LaRoche?

"We'll continue to study it and look at it," Russell said. "[But we want] the opportunity to get more guys on base for the middle of our lineup."

However, there are certain detriments to this strategy. "[But] that could happen with your pitcher hitting ninth," Russell said. "That could be a downside. It depends on how the lineup turns over."

It also depends on who's catching for the Pirates. If Raul Chavez makes a spot start for Doumit behind the plate, Russell has to adjust his lineup. That means dropping the pitcher back to the ninth spot so the lineup can be stretched out.

The Bucs players, however, have no preference.

"I have no idea what the reason is," Wilson said. "That's not my job. My job is to hit. If he thinks it's going to help the team, then that's the way we should go. I don't mind either way. I don't know the percentages or numbers. It's working, so let's keep going after it."

Todd Krise is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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