ATLANTA -- The season-opening hitting streak of San Francisco third baseman Pablo Sandoval is rekindling memories of the best days of Nate McLouth's career.Sandoval took a season-long 19-game hitting streak into the Giants' Friday night game against San Diego. It is the longest streak to open a season since 2008, when McLouth began his campaign for the National League All-Star team by hitting in the Bucs' first 19 games. "It was a lot of fun. You want to start off the season well, and that's as good as you can start," said McLouth prior to the Pirates' opener of a four-game series with the Braves -- to whom the outfielder got dealt 14 months after that hitting streak. "I was definitely aware of it. A lot of people don't want to talk about things like that. They'll hide, not wanting to jinx it or anything. I didn't care; I just wanted to get to 20. I really wanted that." McLouth didn't get there, stopped on April 22 by Ricky Nolasco and Renyel Pinto of the Marlins. McLouth went 0-for-2, while walking twice, in the Pirates' 3-2 victory. McLouth had batted .375 with an OPS of 1.082 during the streak, and collected 16 RBIs in the 19 games. He would cool off, but the early attention helped land the Pirates center fielder on that summer's NL All-Stars.
Series at Turner Field reunites Wilson with Bucs
ATLANTA -- One-time Pittsburgh All-Star shortstop Jack Wilson, now a backup to rookie Tyler Pastornicky with the Braves, was eagerly anticipating his first look at the Pirates across the field.Wilson played 1,159 games with the Bucs from 2001-09, but hadn't yet played a game against them. He was dealt in mid-2009 to the American League's Mariners, who swapped him last season to Atlanta a month after the clubs had finished their schedules against each other. "It'll be nice to see everybody," Wilson, looking forward to the reunion, had told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review earlier this week. Everybody? Not in today's fast-spinning baseball universe. Only seven players on the club when Wilson was dealt on July 29, 2009, remain with the Pirates: Andrew McCutchen, Garrett Jones, Joel Hanrahan, Evan Meek, Jeff Karstens, Nate McLouth (who rejoined them this season after himself being dealt earlier in 2009) and Charlie Morton (Wilson's teammate for six weeks after arriving in the McLouth deal).
Bucs prospect Bell out after knee surgery
ATLANTA -- The rookie professional season of Josh Bell, the Pirates' big score in last June's First-Year Player Draft, has come to a sudden halt with an injury to his left knee.Bell underwent surgery Friday to repair the meniscus in the knee. The surgery, performed in Pittsburgh by Dr. Patrick DeMeo, is expected to sideline the outfielder for much of the Minor League season. The 19-year-old was playing with West Virginia in the Class A South-Atlantic League and felt discomfort in the knee while running the bases in a Tuesday game against Savannah. He was removed from the game, and ensuing examinations revealed the injury. Bell, a multisport standout in Dallas, was regarded prior to the Draft as a tough sign. But the Bucs used their second-round pick on him and were able to reach an agreement after offering him a $5 million signing bonus. In 15 games with the Power, Bell was batting .274, with one home run and 11 RBIs in 62 at-bats. He also had 21 strikeouts. Bell is expected to soon go to Bradenton and begin his rehab at Pirate City. The Pirates anticipate him being able to return to action later in the season.
The Pirates are the only Major League teams to not yet be issued an intentional walk. The Seattle Mariners got their first free pass Friday night, when Dustin Ackley was walked intentionally by Toronto's Francisco Cordero in the ninth. Pedro Alvarez was hitless in two at-bats, but did draw a pair of walks -- tripling his previous season output (one walk in 46 plate appearances). A.J. Burnett's second strikeout -- of Freddie Freeman in the first -- was career No. 1,800, making him the seventh active pitcher at the plateau. Two infield singles, including a wonderfully deadened bunt in the fifth inning, extended Alex Presley's hitting streak to 11 games.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.