Bucs shuffle rotation, bump Burnett up to Thursday
Ace remains on normal rest; McDonald gets nod Friday in St. Louis
PITTSBURGH -- In the Pirates' current lineup of starting pitchers, everyone is getting an extra fifth day of rest -- and James McDonald will get two extra days -- except for one. The exception is A.J. Burnett, who, in an adjusted rotation, will face the Dodgers in Thursday's finale of the four-game set.Burnett's most recent start came against the Padres on Saturday, when he dropped a 5-0 decision, his first home loss of the season. With Kevin Correia making another "spot" start Tuesday, the other starters are again getting an additional day of rest. Manager Clint Hurdle and pitching coach Ray Searage decided to leapfrog McDonald, who had been preceding Burnett, to following him, putting him in line to start Friday's opener of a weekend series in St. Louis. The juggle ... Keeps Burnett on a five-day schedule, for which he'd voiced a preference.
Gives Burnett an additional start at PNC Park, where he has won seven of eight decisions with an ERA more two runs lower than on the road (2.33 vs. 4.43).
Allows McDonald additional side-work time to figure out the glitches behind his 8.71 ERA since the All-Star break."We tried to figure out how our staff ace is best served," said Hurdle, referring to Burnett, "and adjust accordingly. Keeping the staff ace in a good place was at the top of the list [of considerations, but this] gives J-Mac an opportunity for another side session. The game in St. Louis will be a big game as well." Hurdle wouldn't commit to any long-range plans for Correia, who came back out of the bullpen to win his seventh straight decision last Wednesday. "We're evaluating everything day to day, start to start," Hurdle said. The Bucs would no longer need a six-man rotation when the current gauntlet of 20 consecutive playing dates ends on Aug. 22. The implication is either McDonald or Correia would be removed, depending on merit.
Slam could be boost Barmes needs with bat
PITTSBURGH -- It isn't like Clint Hurdle had never before seen Clint Barmes get a big, long hit. But it took a while for the shortstop to bookend that Opening Day walk-off home run off Trevor Hoffman in 2005.Seven-and-a-half years later, the defensive wizard kissed his go-ahead grand slam off the left-field foul pole in the fourth inning of Sunday's game against the Padres. "That swing [Sunday] was the biggest I've seen from him since," Hurdle said of someone who normally is the pitching staff's security blanket. "He's had a challenging season from the offensive side, but the defensive side speaks for itself. There is a security in that clubhouse when he's at shortstop, based on volume of work and pedigree. He's helped us win some games more with the glove than with the bat -- but there's still more in there. We have a bunch of games left for him to still help with the bat." Barmes' average has been steadily on the rise since the end of May, although his numbers had been so depressed it is hard to note the improvement. He took an average of .217 into Monday night's game -- but had hit .260 since the All-Star Game and .316 in his last dozen games. Earlier in Sunday's game, Barmes had committed a pair of errors, one throwing and one fielding. Thus, his first miscues in 37 games and his first career grand slam occurred within innings. Baseball, at its crazy best.
"I believe in what I believe in. So there is no personal satisfaction. Sometimes, it just plays out. But I'm not gonna kick a guy to curb." -- Manager Clint Hurdle, who steadfastly kept shortstop Clint Barmes in the lineup, in the face of a torrent of popular advice earlier this season that he do otherwise.
Gustavo Nunez, the forgotten Rule 5 pick (from Detroit) who has missed the whole year, Spring Training included, after right ankle surgery, began a rehab assignment Monday in the Gulf Coast League. "We're just happy to finally get him on the field," Hurdle said of the middle infielder. In his return outing on Sunday, reliever Juan Cruz raced his fastball up to 94 mph, but Hurdle will be more interested in how his arm handles back-to-back appearances. Being unable to handle that chore is what landed Cruz on the DL, with shoulder inflammation, on July 21. Travis Snider, kept out of Monday's lineup by a tight right hamstring, continued to receive treatment, and Hurdle hoped to be able to use him off the bench if a need arose.
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.