If Wandy can't go Sunday, Cole not option to start
Club will decide by Friday; Irwin, Johnson among possible candidates
PHOENIX -- The Pirates have locked in their starters for the first two games of this weekend's series against the Reds -- A.J. Burnett and Jeff Locke -- but Wandy Rodriguez's hamstring injury could open the door for someone at Triple-A Indianapolis to be recalled for a spot start Sunday.
Gerrit Cole? Grab that bag and breathe into it now --- no, it won't yet be Cole time. Most likely candidates for a cameo are Phil Irwin or, if the Bucs wanted to go lefty-for-lefty, Kris Johnson.
Rodriguez departed Monday's game in the third inning with left-hamstring tightness. He underwent an MRI on Tuesday, results of which were not yet reported as of mid-afternoon local time.
"We want to give Wandy time to see if he can make that [Sunday] start," said Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle, who indicated the final call on that would have to be made by Friday. "We'll know as we get close to the weekend whether he'll be able to go. If not, we anticipate a spot start -- we've got options internally, or it may be one of our guys in Triple-A."
Candidates to start already on the big league staff include Chris Leroux, Jeanmar Gomez and Justin Wilson. But their availability depends on who is needed in the final two games of the set with the D-backs.
Although James McDonald, Tuesday night's starter, would be eligible to face Cincinnati on normal four days' rest Sunday, he is not being considered. The Pirates have 20 consecutive playing dates on the other side of Thursday's off-day.
"We have every inclination to keep McDonald and [Wednesday starter Jonathan] Sanchez in place for St. Louis," said Hurdle, referring to the opening games of the Monday-Wednesday series against the Cardinals. "I don't want to move them up. As we get into this 20-game set, I want go get everybody an extra day [of rest]."
Bucs GM not interested in trading arms for bats
PHOENIX -- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle spends a considerable portion of his daily media briefings giving updates on the club's rehabilitating pitchers (Charlie Morton, Francisco Liriano, Jeff Karstens, Jose Contreras). The most upbeat news coming out of the Pirates' farm system involves the progress of pitching prospects. And, of course, the gang on the big league staff has been borderline lights-out.
Meanwhile, the Bucs' offense struggles. Half the lineup needs a GPS to even find the Interstate -- euphemism for a batting average that begins with a "1."
If this dichotomy continues, would general manager Neal Huntington consider dealing some of the plentiful arms for bats?
Huntington does not sound interested in that option.
"The reality is you can not have enough pitching. It's the most valued commodity," he told MLB.com.
And there is the unreal component of why the strategy does not appeal to the GM: The unreal way the Bucs have hit through seven games, with totals of 13 runs and 26 hits.
"We've got guys with track records for hitting. For seven games, they have not," said Huntington, as aware as anyone that last season got off to a similar quiet start before a June breakout. "The goal is to make that transition to production much quicker than a year ago. We're not going to go through the season with eight guys swinging the way they are.
"And this feels a lot different than it did last year. A year ago, we had a lot of first- or second-pitch outs, a lot of swinging and missing, very few three-ball counts. While the results are not there, we are making pitchers work hard. We're forcing mistakes, but missing them."
• Starling Marte went into Tuesday night's game with three consecutive multi-hit games, which is pretty remarkable when considering the Pirates, as a team, were averaging 3.7 hits for their first seven games.
• Francisco Liriano (fractured non-throwing right arm) is scheduled to pitch two innings of a simulated game on Wednesday.
• Jose Contreras (Tommy John surgery) is to pitch two innings in an extended spring game.
First number, last word
67: Plate appearances, entering Tuesday's game, for Neil Walker since his last RBI, on Aug. 24, 2012, against the Brewers.
"That's what the top of the order is for. We got to get on base so the bats behind us can do the job." -- Andrew McCutchen, on he and Starling Marte having 14 hits and eight runs of the team's totals of 26 and 13 through seven games
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.