MILWAUKEE -- Despite a couple of notable hiccups -- most notably, A.J. Burnett's injury-delayed season and Charlie Morton's loss to Tommy John surgery -- the Pirates have had one of the Majors' more stable starting rotations. They have had to use only eight different starters, a relatively low number in the big picture (the A's have gone through 10).At the most critical time, the launching pad into the September stretch, the Bucs have had to shake things up, due to injury and ineffectiveness. When they return from this brief weekend trip to open up a homestand with three games against Houston, Jeff Locke, Wandy Rodriguez and Kevin Correia will face the Astros. The rookie Locke hasn't started at all yet, Rodriguez joined the team on July 28 -- and he replaced Correia, who has spent most of the last six weeks in the bullpen. The left-handed Locke's insertion into Erik Bedard's old spot was anticipated. Indianapolis' Pitcher of the Year was one of five players added from the Triple-A club to the expanded roster. "He's made a lot of progress," manager Clint Hurdle said of Locke. "His ability to locate, to mix speeds, the command -- all of it. The next step is to check it out here." Correia steps in for Jeff Karstens, kind of like he did Friday night by spinning four shutout innings after a hip-flexor strain had forced Karstens' exit in the first inning. Only this time it will be planned, and likely more permanent. Karstens continues to undergo medical evaluation, but when asked whether the switch was a one-time matter, Hurdle said, "Go with 'perhaps more.' Although for now we've scratched him only from this start." Locke more definitely becomes a regular cog in the September rotation. "I'm not under the assumption it's a one-shot deal," Hurdle said. Locke is ready after going 10-5 with a 2.48 ERA in his first full Triple-A season. "The confidence is through the roof," he said. "It won't be easier, but it'll be a lot more comfortable [than last September]." Last September, Locke went 0-3 with a 6.48 ERA in four starts.
Bucs bring up five for stretch run
MILWAUKEE -- Four players with prior Major League experience and an infielder for whom the experience will be unprecedented have been added by the Pirates to their expanded roster.Left-handers Jeff Locke and Justin Wilson, who have already contributed to the 2012 club, and catcher Eric Fryer were recalled from Indianapolis. Two players who had not been on the 40-man roster -- pitcher Chris Leroux and infielder Brock Holt -- were selected from the Triple-A club. Being "selected" applies to players newly-added to the 40-man roster. Leroux and Holt fill two existing vacancies. This is anticipated to be the first of at least two waves of promotions by the Pirates, with additional moves expected at the end of the Indians' playoff run. Holt will be making his big-league debut after sparkling in his first month at the Triple-A level. A slight (5-foot-10 and 165 pounds) Texan, he hit .432 in 24 games following his promotion from Double-A Altoona, where he hit .322 in 102 games for the Curve. A ninth-round pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, Holt has a .317 career Minor League average. Leroux will also be making his first appearance of the season with the Pirates, after having spent the first two months recovering from a strained pectoral muscle. He joined Indianapolis, first on a rehab assignment, on June 10 and was 4-0 with a 3.11 ERA in 21 games, including seven starts. The 24-year-old appeared in 51 games in 2009-11 with the Marlins and the Pirates, who selected him on waivers from Miami. Locke, 24, was also a September callup last year, and briefly rejoined the Bucs earlier last month, allowing one hit in 4 1/3 innings of two relief appearances. Manager Clint Hurdle is expected to choose Locke to start on Tuesday in PNC Park against the Astros, stepping into the spot vacated by released veteran lefty Erik Bedard. Wilson, a career starter in the Minors, was recently converted to relief work, apprenticeship for the role he is expected to fill with the Pirates. In a one-day big league introduction last month, he fired a shutout inning in San Diego, striking out the side around two hits allowed. Fryer has had brief stays with the Pirates in each of the last two seasons. Recalled in early July, he appeared in four games, primarily as a pinch-hitter.
Bucs' newcomers bring winning attitude
MILWAUKEE -- In supplementing September's expanded roster, the Pirates have added a left-handed starter, a third catcher and ... a winning influence?The five players who on Saturday joined the club from Indianapolis brought the experience of having helped lead the Indians to the International League's West Division championship. It was not lost on Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle that they, as well as the Gulf Coast League Pirates, have already obeyed his year-long command: Finish! "That's what we still have on our table here," Hurdle said. "Indianapolis had a fantastic season on several levels, not just wins and losses (86-55), and I congratulated each of those guys on finishing the season. That's been our mission since Spring Training. "You finished the drill. You completed a task. I do think it helps [having those guys here]." Pitchers Jeff Locke, Chris Leroux and Justin Wilson, catcher Eric Fryer and infielder Brock Holt will now "try to do the same thing here, so we can hug on each other," Locke said. "We want to contribute. We know what's at stake here," Locke added. "It definitely can be something special." When Hurdle made a series of phone calls to the staff of the Gulf Coast Pirates to congratulate them on grabbing the Rookie League's Wild Card playoff spot, they had an appropriate response for him: "We were able to finish. The kids finished."
"Tradition is a wonderful thing, but tradition can also be a vision-killer. At times, maybe you've got to open your minds a little bit, and that's what they are exploring now."
-- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, on the ongoing discussion about expanding use of instant replay.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle admitted that were this not September -- when expanded rosters make the disabled list irrelevant, the club would be "coming to a crossroads" about placing Neil Walker on the DL, as he is still limited to getting treatment five days after being sidelined by lower-back tightness. Starling Marte (strained right oblique) continues to pick up his activities without setback, and by Sunday the club may be able to project a date for him to go on a rehab assignment. Big league newcomer Brock Holt is "an interesting story," said Hurdle, who won't delay getting him into action. "He's been a topic of conversation [in the Bucs' front office] because he did so well in Altoona, then went to Indianapolis and absolutely sparkled."
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.