Pirates call up Kuwata from Triple-A

Japanese veteran fills roster spot vacated by Torres

(Bill Gentry)

By Jenifer Langosch / MLB.com | June 9, 2007 10:00 AM

NEW YORK -- Before Saturday's game, the Pirates announced that they had placed reliever Salomon Torres on the 15-day disabled list with right medial elbow inflammation.

The Pirates called up Masumi Kuwata from Triple-A Indianapolis to fill the bullpen vacancy.

Pirates manager Jim Tracy said that Torres first approached trainers after Friday's game, indicating that he was feeling soreness on the inside of his right elbow, prompting the club to take a precautionary approach by placing Torres on the DL.

"Before we move forward with anything else, we are going to get him checked out," Tracy said. "We'll find out exactly what he's dealing with after he sees the doctor, so I don't want to speculate about that."

While Tracy said that Torres hadn't mentioned the discomfort to him at any point this season, in their meeting last night, Torres told his manager that the soreness is something he has been dealing with on and off since Spring Training, and even periodically over the past few years.

Though not using it as an excuse, the arm discomfort could be one explanation for the notable struggles Torres has dealt with over the past two weeks.

The right-handed reliever has three blown saves and two losses since May 31 and has given up five runs in his last 4 2/3 innings. Torres didn't record an out in Friday's series opener against the Yankees, and he allowed a game-tying single in the seventh inning.

"When you start talking about soreness on the inside part of elbow, you can't just continue to be playing without seeing somebody to figure out what it is to deal with and the course of action to deal with," Tracy said.

Torres will see a doctor early next week when the team returns to Pittsburgh, but in the meantime, the Pirates bullpen couldn't afford to have its veteran reliever sitting in the bullpen not able to pitch for the rest of the series against the Yankees.

With closer Matt Capps having pitched two innings in each of the last two games and likely facing a suspension next week, the Pirates needed to make a move to ensure that another fresh arm would be available.

The Pittsburgh manager said that Capps may be available on Saturday if a save situation arises, though the right-hander would be used in a very limited role.

King Kuwata: One week after making his North American debut for Indianapolis, Kuwata has earned his first trip to the Major Leagues.

"Masumi Kuwata is coming to the big leagues," Tracy announced in his crowded office that included a number of members of the Japanese media.

The Pirates signed Kuwata, who will be the first Japanese player to wear a Pirates uniform, to a Minor League contract in December, and the right-hander pitched for the team during Spring Training before a severely sprained ankle sidelined him in March.

After nursing the ankle, Kuwata joined Indianapolis a week ago and pitched 4 1/3 scoreless innings in his three appearances for the Indians. The 39-year-old allowed three hits, while striking out three.

Tracy praised Kuwata's propensity to throw strikes and his veteran leadership, hopeful that the 39-year-old's experience will be an asset in a bullpen that has three young arms in Josh Sharpless, Jonah Bayliss and Capps.

"Here's the thing -- he has experience, he has know-how," Tracy said. "Is it going to work? While we get the situation figured out with what's going on with Salomon ... here's an opportunity to find something out about this guy."

Before trying to realize his dream of playing in the Major Leagues, Kuwata spent 20 years as a pitcher for the Yomiuri Giants, where he had a 173-141 record and a 3.46 in 442 games.

Though flight problems have caused a delay in Kuwata's arrival, he was expected to arrive at Yankee Stadium during Saturday's game, possibly available to pitch out of the bullpen if necessary.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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