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Pittsburgh vs. Florida, 28 June 2007

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12:05 PM, WPGB

Zach Duke (3-6, 5.44) vs. Scott Olsen (5-6, 4.76). Gosh, this is an early one, at least for a West Coast Pirate fan like me. Here's the box.

Like all the Marlins' young group of starters (Dontrelle Willis, Anibal Sanchez, Ricky Nolasco and Josh Johnson, who's trying to recover from injury), Olsen has taken a step backward this year. He should be a pretty fun guy to root against: just in the last month, he flipped off fans in Milwaukee and threw his teammates under the bus:

And that was the only trouble spot in what Marlins pitching coach Rick Kranitz called Olsen's best outing of the year and Olsen took one superlative further.

"Considering the errors and everything, might've been the best in my career," he said.

Heh. Classy.

-P- Speaking of classy, Angels DH Shea Hillenbrand got himself designated for assignment. Some backstory: last year, Hillenbrand, then a Blue Jay, got his manager John Gibbons to try to start a fight with him. The Jays sent Hillenbrand to San Francisco, where he hit .248/.275/.415. Then the Angels signed him, and he's hit .254/.275/.375. The Angels gave him 197 at bats to prove himself - which was extremely generous, given that Hillenbrand has never been a very good player and the Angels are a serious baseball team with a better option available in Robb Quinlan. So what did Hillenbrand have to say to the Angels? "I'm sorry," maybe? No, he told them that "If I'm not going to play here, give me enough respect to trade me or get rid of me." And that's what got him cut. He had more to say yesterday:

"It's a good thing because I'm at the point in my career where I need to play on a daily basis. That's where I've been and why I've had the success I've had," he said.

"I'm not a bench player or someone that doesn't have an opportunity to help a team on a daily basis because I've proven that I'm very capable of doing that."

Is Shea Hillenbrand the most deluded man in baseball? We'll see. If someone actually does pick him up and play him every day, I guess the answer will be "no."

-P- Yesterday, Ryan Howard hit his 100th home run earlier in his big-league career than any player in the history of baseball. It was Howard's 325th big league game, which means he's been on a 50-homer-per-162-games pace since his career started. That's really remarkable.

-P- Via Primer, Astros GM Tim Purpura is upset and is ready to make some changes:

The team entered Wednesday's series finale in Milwaukee with a 32-45 record, good for fifth place in the National League Central.

Purpura finds all of this "unacceptable." And changes are coming. Soon.

"With the way we're going?" Purpura said. "Certainly. This is unacceptable. You can't keep going like this."

I'd say that among the most likely to see their roles reduced are Craig Biggio (once he gets his 3000th hit), Woody Williams (5.75 ERA) and Trever Miller (7.71 ERA as a LOOGY). The Astros' pitching and defense has really been bad. Houston has dropped a game and a half behind the Pirates and 14 games out with its current three-game losing streak.

On the other side of the NL Central spectrum, the Brewers have won three in a row, and the Cubs have won six straight. Just as importantly for Chicago, Carlos Zambrano appears to be back on track - he's reeled off five quality starts in a row.

-P- A weird comment from Jason Bay about Saturday's protest:

"People can do whatever they want when they buy a ticket," left fielder Jason Bay said. "I don't really have much else to say about it. I don't really know what the purpose is or what anyone would be trying to change."

Told that [the protest] purportedly is not aimed at the players, Bay added, "That would be my guess. I guess we'll just have to see how big a deal it is. Whatever it is, you don't want to be in this situation where something like that becomes the focus and takes away what happens on the field."

"That would be my guess"? Anyone want to guess what that might mean? 'Yeah, I'd be mad at the management, too'?

-P- The Pirates are working hard to ignore the protest. The deletions of message board posts about it is the only aspect that's surprising to me. It seems petty, and it seems like the sort of thing that would just stoke fan anger even more.