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Notes: Musical chairs at first
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06/24/2003  1:55 PM ET 
Notes: Musical chairs at first
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Always a threat to go deep, Matt Stairs may be the best starting option at first base for now. (AP)
MONTREAL -- Matt Stairs got his second start of the season at first base Tuesday afternoon as the game of musical chairs precipitated by the absence of Randall Simon continued for the Pirates.

When asked if it were possible he would have a different first baseman every day, Bucs skipper Lloyd McClendon said, "I guess that's a good statement. "If somebody gets hot over there," he said, "maybe they'll play."

Simon went down with a torn ligament in his right hand after hitting a 15th-inning walk-off homer in a 7-6 win against Cleveland on Saturday, and he was placed on the 15-day disabled list a day later.

Kevin Young has made 16 starts at first base after starting 127 games there last year, and the Pirates have a decent 7-9 record when he mans first. But Young is hitting only .205 with 24 strikeouts in 83 at-bats this season, and he is an additional right-handed bat in a lineup loaded with them.

Rookie Carlos Rivera was added to the mix when he made his first start at first base Monday night.

Stairs, like Simon, bats from the left side and is a threat to go deep every time he walks to the plate. The only question is his defensive capabilities at first, but McClendon is confident he can get the job done.

"He's an average first baseman; I'd say he and Craig Wilson are on par with each other," McClendon said in reference to his backup first baseman last year. "They'll catch everything you send to them. I don't expect him to make any fantastic plays, but he's got good hands."

Stairs missed 16 games recovering from a slight tear of a ligament in his right ring finger. Although he went only 3-for-18 with two homers in seven games during his rehab assignment at Triple-A Nashville, McClendon feels the trip did Stairs some good.

"He went down and got to see some pitches every day for five or six days in a row," McClendon said. "He really didn't hit a whole lot down there, but he got to see a lot of pitches. He's kind of got his groove back a little bit. He found his hand slot and he's feeling comfortable at the plate."

Since returning from his rehab assignment on June 10, Stairs is batting .429 with five doubles and three homers.

Bucs' draft pick wins College Series: The Pirates' fifth-round draft pick out of Rice University, third baseman Craig Stansberry, had quite a game as his team clinched the College World Series with a 14-2 win over Stanford on Monday. Stansberry went 3-for-4 with two RBIs and three runs scored, and also assisted on the final out the game.

Pirates prospects slated for Futures Game: Two Pirates prospects have been selected to participate in the Futures Game to be played July 13 during All-Star festivities in Chicago at U.S. Cellular Field. Right-hander John VanBenschoten will play for the U.S. squad while infielder Jose Castillo will play for the world team.

VanBenschoten was Pittsburgh's top pick (eighth overall) in the 2001 draft. He has gone 1-0 with a 2.08 ERA in five starts since being promoted to Double-A Altoona on May 23. He went 6-0 with a 2.22 ERA in nine starts at Single-A Lynchburg.

Castillo was ranked as Pittsburgh's fourth best prospect by Baseball America prior to this season. He's hitting .277 with three homers and 30 RBIs in 64 games for Altoona.

Pirates getting beat late in games: The Bucs entered Tuesday afternoon's game having been outscored 135-92 between the seventh and ninth innings this season. By contrast, they have outscored the opposition 142-110 between the first and third innings.

Arpon Basu is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.



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