- The Washington Times - Friday, April 10, 2009

CINCINNATI (AP) - Nobody minded sitting this one out.

Steady rain forced the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds to postpone the opening game of their series Friday night, giving the two ailing teams an extra day to get healthy.

The game was called off 18 minutes after it was supposed to start. Rain moved in late afternoon and was forecast to continue well into the night. The game wasn’t immediately rescheduled.

The Pirates planned to skip Jeff Karstens, who was Friday’s scheduled starter, and stay in order for the rest of the series, with left-hander Paul Maholm starting Saturday’s game. Right-hander Johnny Cueto, who was the Reds’ starter on Friday, will pitch the second game in place of Micah Owings, who goes into the bullpen for the next few days.

Both teams have encountered challenging weather in the opening week. The Reds lost to the Mets 2-1 in their opener on Monday, when freezing rain fell on a 37-degree afternoon. The Pirates opened with a 6-4 win in St. Louis, where it was 41 degrees.

The last thing they needed was a night of standing out in the rain.

Both teams were hit by a virus that went around Florida during spring training. The Pirates had several players sidelined the last three weeks, and some of them are still trying to catch up.

Right-hander Ian Snell, who came down with a severe case of the flu during the final week of spring training, said he had his first full meal on Thursday night. The illness left him incapacitated for several days.

“I’ve never felt like that in my life,” Snell said before Friday’s game was postponed. “I really got sick. That was the worst.”

Snell is scheduled to start the final game of the series Sunday in Cincinnati.

First baseman Adam LaRoche missed Thursday’s game because he was sick, but manager John Russell had planned to use him on Friday. Much of Russell’s time the last couple of weeks has been spent figuring out how long his sick players will be sidelined and what they’ll have to do to catch up.

“There was two different kinds (of illness),” Russell said. “Some guys got it where it knocked them down for six or seven days, and some guys got it where it was 24-48 hours.”

Add Russell to the ailing list.

The 48-year-old manager had his left elbow cleaned out at a Cincinnati hospital on Friday. The elbow began to swell about 10 days ago, caused by the gout, and was getting worse. He had hoped to have it treated when the Pirates returned home for their opener on Monday.

“I was very uncomfortable,” he said. “I knew we were going to have to do something. We were trying to get back to Pittsburgh (before treating it). It looked like I had a baseball in there, so it wasn’t too good.”

Russell wore a large brace on the left arm under his black Pirates jacket. He’ll have to use the brace for 10 days.

“I can’t bend it, but anything is better than what I had,” he said. “It was awful. I couldn’t bend my arm.”

The Reds know how he feels.

Cincinnati also had several players hit by the spring training virus in Florida. Center fielder Willy Taveras got sick over the weekend and was out of the starting lineup for the first two games this week.

Their problems were nothing compared to the Pirates’ run of illness.

“We didn’t have it like they had it,” manager Dusty Baker said. “I think they had nine or 10 guys (sick) at one time, right at the end. We probably had four or five guys, but our guys were sort of separated in time. But with their guys, it was like a plague.”

The Reds’ biggest concern is right-hander Bronson Arroyo, whose carpal tunnel flared up the last two weeks of spring training. The guitar-strumming starter wears a brace on his right arm away from the ballpark, and has given up playing his music while he waits for the problem to go away.

Arroyo pitched six innings of an 8-6 win over the Mets on Thursday, even though he’s still feeling some weakness in the pitching hand. He’s taking anti-inflammatory drugs and cutting back on his workouts, trying to get it to subside.

“I’m hoping to get back into the weight room and back on my normal schedule,” Arroyo said Friday. “I haven’t been able to do that for the last couple of weeks, and I think that’s why I got a little fatigued out there.”

Asked if he’s confident that Arroyo is past the worst of it, Baker said, “You’re asking a question that I don’t know I can answer. It’s been there for years. There’s a good chance it will continue for some period of time. These things just don’t go away. The key is to figure out how to deal with it.”

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