PITTSBURGH -- At the moment, the Pirates have more credible starting pitchers than they can accommodate -- as evidenced by Brandon Cumpton having to be optioned to make room for Gerrit Cole. And Francisco Liriano, their 2013 ace -- albeit with just one win on the season -- is on the back shelf of the DL.
Next season, however, is up in the air beyond Cole and Charlie Morton, in the first installment of a three-year deal. But you may already be able to fill in one of the blanks with Stolmy Pimentel, pitching up to the love team staff has always shown him.
Clint Hurdle virtually gushed over Pimentel's Saturday outing. For the manager, it was clearly the best takeaway from that 5-3 loss to the Mets.
"Another good outing. Outstanding," Hurdle said. "The swing-and-miss stuff … the split played, and the slider. There was a nice finish to the fastball."
Pimentel replaced Cole in the fifth inning and blanked the Mets on two hits through the next four innings, walking one and striking out seven. It was the 24-year-old Dominican right-hander's first appearance in 10 days, since allowing one run in 4 1/3 innings against the Reds.
"That's a really good body of relief work. Really good development for him the last two times he had the ball," Hurdle said.
The Bucs acquired Pimentel from Boston in December 2012 as part of the four-player package in return for Joel Hanrahan, and they have all along planned to stretch him out to be a starter. Another piece in that swap was current closer Mark Melancon.
Pirates give Martin an extra day of rest
PITTSBURGH -- Russell Martin was conspicuously absent from the Pirates' lineup for a second consecutive day on Sunday.
Martin did slightly extend his left shoulder on a takeout slide at second base in Friday's game, after which he told MLB.com that he was "lucky" to not incur an injury. Likely, he was sorer than expected the following morning and is getting the time off as a precaution, particularly with Monday's off-day affording him three days of rest.
Pirates GM Neal Huntington indicated you could add any possible issues remaining from the Friday slide to the laundry list of dings catchers normally incur.
"Catcher is a physically-taxing position," Huntington said. "With the pure off-day [on Monday], [Pirates manager Clint Hurdle] and I walked through it and thought it was a good opportunity to give him another day to recover and keep him as strong and sharp as we can for the rest of the season."
Chris Stewart made successive starts for the first time while Martin has been active. Stewart did start consecutive games twice while Martin was spending nearly a month on the DL with a strained left hamstring and Tony Sanchez was the primary catcher.
Stewart does have a .364 lifetime average against Bartolo Colon, the Mets' Sunday starter. Under normal circumstances, he would have started the Sunday day-after-late afternoon game anyway.
So the Bucs were down two regulars in the finale of the four-game series against New York. Starling Marte did return after missing four starts with a jammed middle finger, but did so in center field -- with Andrew McCutchen getting a scheduled day off.
Watson hoping to get NL All-Star call
PITTSBURGH -- Tony Watson got his usual call in the Pirates' bullpen on Sunday.
Next weekend, he expects a different call: One that informs him that he has been selected to the National League All-Star team.
The Pirates' lefty relief ace has no assurances. But he does have the numbers -- a 0.96 ERA in 38 appearances following a typical perfect eighth inning against the Mets -- and also has his manager's pledge to lobby for him.
Since Clint Hurdle is on the NL's All-Star coaching staff, he will not have to go out of his way to bend manager Mike Matheny's ear.
"Skip said he would go to bat for me," said Watson. "I've got my flight back home [for the All-Star break], but I'll be happy to change the ticket."
Fans have few days remaining to cast their votes for starters at MLB.com -- online or on a mobile device -- using the 2014 All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot Sponsored by Experian until Thursday at 11:59 p.m. ET. The 2014 All-Star Game will be played at Target Field on Tuesday, July 15 on FOX.
Of course, Watson is out of the fans' jurisdiction. As much as he would appreciate being able to get fans' votes, he admitted the votes he is anticipating mean even more.
"Pitchers can be selected only by other players or the manager," he noted. "Being selected that way would mean even more, make it more special."
First number, last word
54: Walks by Andrew McCutchen this season through Saturday, tops in the National League; he had 14 games remaining to break the Pirates record of 63 walks into the All-Star break shared by Arky Vaughn (1936) and Ralph Kiner (1950, '52).
"I've got the Leadership Council [of players]. That's the way we communicate. That's why I don't need to be out there every day. I don't want to be out there every day. Who wants Dad in the living room every day?" -- Hurdle, on his clubhouse culture.
• The National League Central -- baseball's only division with three 90-win teams last season -- is at it again. Entering Sunday, the NL Central was the only division with four teams above .500 (34-46 Chicago was the holdout, but even the Cubs were 15-13 since May 30).
• Euclides Rojas, the Bucs' bullpen coach, was newest Pirates reliever Ernesto Frieri's pitching coach in the Venezuela Winter League.
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.