Russell has options for DH role
Bucs manager likely to turn to sluggers Monroe, Hinske
WASHINGTON -- As the Pirates look ahead to the weekend's three-game Interleague set against the White Sox in Chicago, manager John Russell is convinced that the team is better prepared to deal with the use of the designated hitter this year. That's largely because Russell now has potential DH candidates who fit the mold.
Craig Monroe and Eric Hinske, both of whom have played their careers almost exclusively in the American League, each have started more than 80 games as a DH. Hinske called the role an "art form," but in a change from last year, at least Russell has the luxury of knowing he has slugging bench players who understand the intricacies of the role.
"You have to stay busy," Hinske said, describing how he handles the role. "You have to sweat. Don't sit around. Swing as much as you can, otherwise you feel like you're going to pinch-hit four times. One thing good about it is you know you're going to get more than one at-bat."
Russell hasn't designated any particular player as his DH for the weekend, and there's a strong chance that the name could be different in each of the three games. Russell could give one of his regular outfielders a night off in the field, though with the familiarity Hinske and Monroe have in being a DH, it appears as if Russell is leaning toward using them there.
"The guys we've got DHing have been in that league," Russell said. "They're more familiar. They're going to know something about these guys that we don't know because they've seen them a little bit more. It's going to good to get those guys in."
In the first 12 years of Interleague Play, the production the Pirates have received from their DHs hasn't been overwhelming. Pittsburgh's .257 cumulative batting average from the DH spot ranks eighth in the National League, while the club's 36 RBIs is better than only two other teams in the league.
Monroe, who has admitted before to not being a huge fan of the DH, has a career .231 average with 13 homers and 46 RBIs in 84 games in the role. With the White Sox sending a left-handed starter to the mound on Saturday and Sunday, Monroe is almost certainly assured of being in the starting lineup for both games.
In addition, Monroe's familiarity with the American League Central -- Monroe spent seven years in the division -- should also be an asset.
"I think it'll be a fun challenge to go back there," Monroe said. "They're bulldogs. They're going to attack you. They're not going to give in. They have an established staff over there."
As for Hinske, he has a career .254 average in 88 games as a DH. He made 20 appearances last season as a DH.
Both Ramon Vazquez and Delwyn Young would also be candidates to fill the role. Vazquez, like Hinske and Monroe, has a noted familiarity with the AL, while Young has been a strong offensive presence since being acquired by the Pirates in mid-April.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.