CHICAGO - Fresh off what manager Clint Hurdle called "his best outing to date," Charlie Morton is the Pirates' fallback option to start on Thursday if Wandy Rodriguez cannot.
Rodriguez, who left his previous start last Wednesday after retiring one batter because of tightness in the forearm, is scheduled to throw a bullpen on Monday in PNC Park. If the results of that workout are not encouraging, the lefty will be placed on the disabled list and Morton would step into his spot.
The Pirates did not confirm these plans, since Morton remains on the 60-day disabled list and Hurdle disdains dealing with hypothetical issues.
However, the Plan B to make that start against the Giants clearly is Morton, who made a rehab start Saturday night for Triple-A Indianapolis and therefore would be going on normal four-days rest on Thursday.
Morton went 6 1/3 innings Saturday night, throwing "a very good mix" of 96 pitches, according to Hurdle. He allowed Norfolk six hits and two runs, with one walk and four strikeouts.
"He had a good sinker: 10 ground ball outs," the manager elaborated. "It all depends on how Wandy's bullpen goes. Charlie could actually be one of the guys considered."
Morton is in the final stages of his comeback from Tommy John surgery. The Thursday start would come on almost the anniversary of that operation, which he underwent on June 14, 2012.
Pirates anticipating arrival of Dodgers' Puig
CHICAGO -- The Pirates' staff has not yet received any formal scouting reports on Yasiel Puig. But manager Clint Hurdle has gotten plenty of word-of-mouth reports from baseball cohorts on the meteoric outfielder the Dodgers will be bringing to town next weekend.
And the word is "fantastic."
"[Paul] Maholm informed me he's not ready to make the Hall of Fame yet," said Hurdle, citing the former Pittsburgh lefty who is now with Atlanta and faced Puig on Friday. "But if you make a mistake, he can hit it out of the park. And he's done some pretty remarkable things early in his career."
Maholm spoke from experience: He was working on a 1-0 gem against the Dodgers until Puig, in his fifth Major League game, hit his fourth homer off him in the sixth to tie the score.
"What he's doing is obviously electrifying," Hurdle said. "It's good for the game. It's obviously good for the Dodgers."
The Dodgers will be in PNC Park for games Friday night, late Saturday afternoon (4:05 p.m. ET) and Sunday afternoon.
In Sunday's game, Gerrit Cole, set to make his big league debut on Tuesday, could face Clayton Kershaw … as well as Puig.
Pirates to minimize distractions for Cole
CHICAGO -- Anticipation for Gerrit Cole's Major League debut will naturally grow until he delivers that first pitch from the PNC Park mound at 7:05 p.m. ET on Tuesday.
However, the build-up will be all "external," as Pirates manager Clint Hurdle likes to refer to the noise outside of his team's clubhouse.
The Pirates are ensuring that Cole's big league entry will be as muted and calming as possible.
The top overall pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft will be in-house Monday to check out his PNC Park locker and try on his new No. 45 uniform.
But Monday is a break in the Pirates' schedule, and the team will not hold any media events involving Cole. Thus, given starting pitchers' pregame routines, Cole will not get to meet with reporters until after his debut outing.
Hurdle does plan to share a quiet moment with the right-hander on Monday.
"I'll be interested to get his feedback on how he feels the progression of his season has gone," the manager said. "I'll ask him about what areas he feels he nailed down, and the things in front of him he thinks he still has to master."
Otherwise, Cole's entrance will be kept as low key as plausible. Just another one of 162.
• Entering Sunday's action, the Pirates had won seven games while scoring one run or two. How unusual was that? A trio of teams had yet to win a single game under those conditions: the Angels, the Blue Jays and the Yankees were a collective 0-46 when scoring two or fewer.
• Also going into Sunday's game, the Pittsburgh pitching staff had held opponents to an average of .223. The lowest on record by a National League staff is .224, by the Sandy Koufax-Don Drysdale 1965 Dodgers.
First number, last word
0: Hits allowed by reliever Bryan Morris in his last nine innings, spanning five appearances.
"We know what to expect and the type of person he is. He's not gonna let his nerves get the best of him. He'll pitch well." - Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen, on imminent new teammate Gerrit Cole.
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.