From their manager on down, the Pittsburgh Pirates are ailing. With games scheduled for the first eight days of the season they weren’t upset to see their series opener with the Cincinnati Reds postponed by rain.
They’re hoping another start from their top pitcher will make them feel better.
Paul Maholm will look to continue his recent success against the Reds on Saturday in the opener of a rain-shortened two-game series at Great American Ball Park.
Pittsburgh (2-2) was hit by a flu bug near the end of spring training that severely affected starter Ian Snell and first baseman Adam LaRoche, among others. Manager John Russell, meanwhile, had his own health issue - a swollen elbow that he had cleaned out Friday at a Cincinnati hospital.
The Pirates’ opener with the Reds (1-2) that night was rained out, giving Russell’s team its only day off in what was supposed to be a grueling opening stretch.
“There was two different kinds (of illness),” Russell said. “Some guys got it where it knocked them down for six or seven days, and some guys got it where it was 24-48 hours.”
LaRoche, who sat out the finale of Pittsburgh’s four-game series in St. Louis on Thursday, is expected to return Saturday.
The Reds haven’t been immune, either, as Willy Taveras missed the team’s first two games with the flu. Taveras returned Thursday and had hits in the past two games, but he and Cincinnati may find things tougher against Maholm (0-0, 1.35 ERA).
Maholm, who will take the mound in place of Friday’s scheduled starter Jeff Karstens, is 1-0 with a 2.10 ERA in 34 1-3 innings in his last five starts against Cincinnati.
Pittsburgh’s ace looked good Monday in St. Louis, giving up two runs - one earned - in 6 2-3 innings. Maholm didn’t factor in the decision in the Pirates’ comeback 6-4 victory to open the four-game series, which they split after losing 2-1 on Thursday while picking up only one hit.
One player who hasn’t had any problems getting hits is Cincinnati’s Joey Votto, who is 7-for-13 with two homers and seven RBIs. Votto went 3-for-5 with a homer and four RBIs Thursday as the Reds beat the New York Mets 8-6 to salvage the finale of their three-game set.
“This year, I wanted to play well, not just because I know I’m an important part of the team, but because I want to help the team win,” said Votto, a career .395 hitter against the Pirates, but just 1-for-5 against Maholm.
Manager Dusty Baker was simply happy he won’t have to deal with a doubleheader Saturday.
“I think it’s too early on my guys and too early on my pitchers,” he told the Reds’ official Web site. “They didn’t ask us, but we talked about it.”
Cueto was inconsistent as a rookie last season, but he didn’t get much offensive help in his final seven starts. The right-hander went 2-3 with a 3.97 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 34 innings during that span, but got more than two runs of support just once.
Cueto, who went 1-1 with a 1.57 ERA in five spring training games, is 2-1 with a 4.50 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 16 innings over three starts versus Pittsburgh.
In his only home start against them May 27, he allowed three runs and nine hits with four strikeouts in five innings of a 9-6 victory.