Monroe getting starts against lefties

Monroe getting starts against lefties

PITTSBURGH -- There's a trend starting to play itself out on the Pirates' lineup card, now two weeks into the season.

Monday marked the third time Pittsburgh has been opposed by a left-handed starter. It also marked the third start of the season for outfielder Craig Monroe.

Pittsburgh manager John Russell has made it no secret he wants to get Monroe involved as a starter because of the presence Monroe adds to the lineup and to keep him sharp for when he's needed off the bench. Russell hasn't characterized it as the beginning of a platoon situation in right field, though that's what it has been so far.

"We've been looking for ways to get him out there," Russell said. "We're going to need him, obviously, this season, so as much as we can get him out there, we're going to."

Brandon Moss has started all nine games in which the Pirates have faced a right-handed starter, which included each of the team's first seven games. Moss' results aren't overwhelming, but he is hitting .265 and has a hit in each of his last six starts.

Still, Monroe's performance on Saturday, which included two three-run homers, accentuated the impact he can have in the lineup. Monroe, who was slotted into the cleanup spot on Monday in catcher Ryan Doumit's absence, immediately becomes one of the club's most significant power threats when he is starting.

The fact Russell has opted for Monroe in favor of Moss three times now is not a reflection of any confidence lost in Moss. In trying to get Monroe a suitable number of at-bats, Russell hasn't been left with much choice other than to substitute Monroe for Moss. Nyjer Morgan's strong start to the season in left has made it hard for Russell to justify sitting Morgan and taking away his top-of-the-lineup presence.

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