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 PITTSBURGH (AP) -The Pittsburgh Pirates will easily remember the first home stand of new manager John Russell's career. The rain delays, the extended games, all the extra innings made it a different-than-most first week of home games.
A week with occurrences like these:
- The Pirates rallied from seven runs down in Russell's first home game Monday against the Cubs, forced extra innings, then lost mostly because winter draft pickup Evan Meek couldn't find home plate in his first PNC Park appearance.
Immediately, fans began wondering how the Pirates could carry such a pitcher all season.
Such a rally isn't common, especially when there's a full house for the home opener. The Pirates hadn't come back from such a deficit since they trailed 8-1 in the second inning before beating Minnesota 11-8 on June 10, 2001 - though it didn't save general manager Cam Bonifay's job. He was fired the next day.
- Two days later, the Pirates had not one, but two game-extending home runs, by Jason Bay and Adam LaRoche, and they wound up taking the Cubs to 15 innings. Despite playing 27 innings in two games, the equivalent of three games, they lost 6-4 mostly because left-handed prospect Phil Dumatrait gave up three hits, walked four and allowed four runs in three innings.
Dumatrait was the only arm left in the bullpen except for Meek, and because of the opener, Russell was reluctant to use him.
Immediately, fans began wondering how the Pirates could carry such a pitcher all season.
- Meek threw in the mid-90s and didn't allow a run or a hit during two innings of work Thursday in a 7-3 loss to the Cubs, and the fans began to understand why the Pirates are carrying him.
``We don't have that many arms running around in our system,'' general manager Neal Huntington said Sunday. ``So we can't just give those away.''
However, the Pirates can't carry Meek all season without getting some return because, with so few complete games these days, it has become impossible to hide a reliever for an extended period. The Pirates must offer Meek back to Tampa Bay if they don't keep him all season.
``We have to know he can compete at the major league level,'' Huntington said. ``We can't hamstring John and give him six relievers when the reality is this club's going to play a lot of close games and John's going to need seven relievers at his disposal.''
- There were two rain delays before and during the 1-0 victory Friday over the Reds and another short one before Sunday's game, and the games Saturday and Sunday were played with temperatures in the 40s. (Hey, it's April in Pittsburgh).
- Despite the losses Monday and Wednesday, the Pirates came back to win one-run games against the Reds on Friday and Saturday, showing they do have some resiliency - not a common trait for recent-vintage Pirates clubs.
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