April 2, 2007

Pre-Game Notes

HAPPY OPENING DAY!!!

PITTSBURGH PIRATES (0-0) vs. HOUSTON ASTROS (0-0)
APRIL 2, 2007 AT MINUTE MAID PARK --- GAME #1, ROAD #1
LHP ZACH DUKE (10-15, 4.47 ERA in 2006) vs. RHP ROY OSWALT (15-8, 2.98 in 2006)

WE WILL...START THE SEASON:
Tonight the Pirates begin their 121st season of professional baseball in the National League. The Bucs have a 63-57 record in their first 120 openers (49-44 on the road and 14-13 at home). Pittsburgh lost, 5-2, to the Brewers in the 2006 season opener, played at Miller Park on April 3.

vs. HOUSTON:
The Pirates and Astros are meeting on Opening Day for just the third time since Houston joined the National League in 1962. The clubs met in Pittsburgh in the 2000 season opener with the Astros winning a 5-2 decision (Shane Reynolds over Jason Schmidt). The 1968 opener was played in Houston as Larry Dierker picked up a 5-4 decision over Pittsburgh's Juan Pizarro.

OPENING ON THE ROAD:
The Bucs are opening away from home for the second straight year. They have gone 4-3 in their last seven season openers held on the road.

OPENING DAY STARTERS:
Zach Duke is making his first career Opening Day start. Oliver Perez started each of the last two for the Bucs after Kip Wells received the nod in 2004. Kris Benson started the 2003 season opener, Ron Villone started in 2002, Todd Ritchie started in 2001 and Jason Schmidt took the hill for the Bucs in 2000. Since Bob Walk started the 1989 season opener for the Bucs, it's also been Doug Drabek (1990-1992), Tim Wakefield (1993), Zane Smith (1994), Jon Lieber (1995, 1997), Paul Wagner (1996) and Francisco Cordova (1998-1999).

FYI:
The only Pittsburgh pitcher to hit a home run on Opening Day was Rick Rhoden (4/10/82 at St. Louis).

AGED TO PERFECTION:
The average age of the current active roster is 27.1, compared to 28.4 last year, 28.9 in 2005, 27.8 in 2004, 29.0 in 2003, 28.4 in 2002, 28.8 in 2001, 28.0 in 2000, 27.4 in 1999 and 26.7 in 1998. Pitcher Juan Perez and infielder Don Kelly are the two rookies on the squad. The average age of the five starting pitchers is 24.8.

HOME GROWN:
Of the 25 players on the active roster, a total of 12 were originally signed by the Pirates.

CATCH THIS:
With his start behind the plate tonight, Ronny Paulino becomes the fourth different catcher to start for the Pirates on Opening Day since 2004. The 25-year-old backstop hit .481 in spring training, going 26-for-46 (.565) in his final 16 Grapefruit League games.

LOCAL FLAVOR:
Lefty Zach Duke hails from Clifton, TX, which is about three hours northwest of Houston. He is a 2001 graduate of Midway High School. Zach is expecting just a few friends and family members to attend tonight's game.

WINNING THE FIRST ONE:
A win tonight would give the Pirates their first 1-0 start since the 2004 season.

HOUSE OF HORRORS:
The Pirates lost each of their six games played at Minute Maid Park last year after winning four of six in 2005. In 53 career games played here, the Bucs have posted an 11-42 record and have captured just four winning series (the two in 2005, one in 2002 and one in 2001).

ROSTER NOTES:
There are 15 players returning from last year's opening day active roster, including John Grabow and Freddy Sanchez, who are starting this season on the disabled list. Two players made the team as non-roster invitees (John Wasdin and Don Kelly) and a total of four will be wearing Pittsburgh black and gold for the first time (Tony Armas, Adam LaRoche, Don Kelly and John Wasdin). The oldest player on the roster is Salomon Torres (35) and the youngest is Matt Capps (turns 24 on September 3).

ON THE D.L.:
Pitcher John Grabow (left elbow irritation - eligible on 4/7) and infielder Freddy Sanchez (right knee sprain - eligible on 4/7) are on the 15-day disabled list.

UPCOMING PITCHING MATCHUPS:
Tuesday at Houston 7:05 CDT RHP Ian Snell (14-11, 4.74 ERA in 2006) vs. RHP Jason Jennings (9-13, 3.78 ERA in 2006) FSNP
Wednesday at Houston 7:05 CDT LHP Tom Gorzelanny (2-5, 3.79 ERA in 2006) vs. RHP Woody Williams (12-5, 3.65 ERA in 2006) FSNP
Friday at Cincinnati 7:10 EDT LHP Paul Maholm (8-10, 4.76 ERA in 2006) vs. RHP Matt Belisle (2-0, 3.60 ERA in 2006) FSNP
Saturday at Cincinnati 7:10 EDT LHP Zach Duke (0-0, 0.00 ERA + tonight) vs. RHP Aaron Harang (0-0, 0.00 ERA + today) NO TV
Sunday at Cincinnati 1:15 EDT RHP Tony Armas (9-12, 5.03 ERA in 2006) vs. TBA FSNP

TODAYS STARTER:
ZACH DUKE:
The 23-year-old lefthander (turns 24 on April 19) is making his first start of the 2007 season tonight - his first career Opening Day assignment.

LAST START:
Zach received a no-decision in Pittsburgh's 6-4 loss to the Reds in Sarasota, FL, Wednesday afternoon. He tossed 3.0 scoreless frames before allowing a run in the 4th inning and back-to-back home runs to Adam Dunn and Juan Encarnacion in the 6th.

IN SPRING TRAINING:
Duke went 0-2 with a 6.35 ERA in six Grapefruit League starts. He also threw 81 pitches while pitching in a minor league game against Baltimore's Triple-A affiliate on 3/23 (6.0ip/6h/2r/2er/0bb/3so).

BREAKING ON TO THE SCENE:
In his rookie season of 2005, Zach went 8-2 with a 1.81 ERA in 14 starts. He posted a 0.92 ERA after his first six starts; just one of four pitchers to record an ERA below 1.00 since 1920 (also Fernando Valenzuela with Dodgers in 1981, Boo Ferris with Braves in 1945 and Steve Rogers with Expos in 1973).

TROUBLE IN THE FIRST:
Zach allowed 31 runs in the 1st inning last year and posted a 7.94 ERA (34.0ip/30er) in the opening frame. In addition, opponents batted .349 (51-for-146) against him in his first inning of work and he was scored upon in the 1st inning 14 times overall in his 34 starts.

LOOKING TO END THE SKID:
Duke lost each of his last 10 decisions on the road last year. He won his lone road decision on 5/2 at Chicago.

TOMORROWS STARTER:
IAN SNELL: The 25-year-old righthander will be making his first start of the season tomorrow night. His last appearance came as a starter in a minor league game in Bradenton, FL, Thursday afternoon(5.0ip/7h/3r/2er/0bb/3so). Went 3-0 with a 3.00 ERA (21.0ip/7er) in six Grapefruit League outings (four starts), leading the club in wins and strikeouts (24). Spent first full season in the majors with Pittsburgh in 2006 and went 14-11 in 32 starts. Led club in victories and strikeouts (169). His 14 wins were the most by a Bucco righthander since Todd Ritchie on 15 game in 1999.

vs. HOUSTON:
1-2 with a 5.94 ERA (16.2ip/11er) in three starts last year, beating Taylor Buccholz in Pittsburgh on 5/26. 2-3 with a 4.55 ERA (31.2ip/16er) in six career games..Tossed 8.0 shutout innings while picking up his first major league win over Roger Clemens at PNC Park on 9/19/05.

Through The Dugout:
Jose Bautista - Homered 16 times in 400 at bats with Bucs in 2006.

Jason Bay - Hit 22 of his 35 home runs on the road last season. Received three walks on Opening Day last year.

Jose Castillo - His 33 career home runs rank fourth on club's all-time list for second basemen (Johnny Ray is 3rd with 36).

Humberto Cota - Has been a member of the Pirates since making his major league debut with team in 2001.

Ryan Doumit - Will be celebrating his 26th birthday tomorrow. Has hit five of his 12 career home runs against the Astros.

Chris Duffy - Hit .339 (41-for-121) in last 30 games of 2006 season - beginning on 8/28.

Brad Eldred - Made eight appearances in right field (45 innings) during Grapefruit League action.

Don Kelly - Is one of only two rookies on Pittsburgh's roster (also left-handed pitcher Juan Perez).

Adam LaRoche - Tied for eighth among N.L. players with 57 RBI on the road last season.

Nate McLouth - Made 42 appearances in center field, 39 in right field and three in left field for the Pirates last season.

Xavier Nady - Went 4-for-4 on Opening Day for the Mets last year. Hit safely in first five at bats overall in 2006.

Ronny Paulino - Ranked second among N.L. rookies in batting last year (.310) behind Houston's Luke Scott (.336).

Jack Wilson - Ranks sixth all-time among Bucco shortstops in games played (843) and home runs (43).

Through The Pen:
Jonah Bayless - Made major league debut with Kansas City in 2005. Went 1-1 with a 4.30 ERA in 11 games with Pirates in 2006.

Matt Capps - Established club rookie record by making 85 appearances in 2006. Led all N.L. rookies in appearances last year.

Shawn Chacon - Went 2-3 with a 5.48 ERA in nine starts for the Pirates last year after being acquired from the Yankees on 7/31.

Damaso Marte - Established career high with 75 appearances last year. Has averaged 71 appearances a season over the last five years (2002-2006).

Juan Perez - Was claimed off waivers from NYM on 8/23/06. Made big-league debut on 9/7/06 at Wrigley Field.

Salomon Torres - Leads all major league relief pitchers with 172 appearances and 188.0 innings pitched since 2005.

John Wasdin - Is making his first appearance on a major league Opening Day roster since 2001 (Colorado) and his fifth all time.
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