05/23/12 4:48 PM ET
First Social Media Night of season Friday
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
Hernandez finally makes first big league start
PITTSBURGH -- Gorkys Hernandez was in his first Major League starting lineup on Wednesday, getting the nod in left field against Mets lefty Jon Niese at PNC Park.At 10 a.m. ET, Bucs manager Clint Hurdle wasn't about to impart any advice to the 24-year-old Venezuelan on how to approach an occasion he had been anticipating through 7 1/4 Minor League seasons. "Anything I'd tell him would be forgotten by 12:35 when he steps into the box," Hurdle said. "It's always the same: Fear nothing, respect everything. Embrace the game. Play. Don't work at it; play." Hernandez -- who went 0-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout Wednesday -- made his big league debut in Monday night's series opener, when he pinch-hit and was struck out by Mets ace Johan Santana. Hurdle thought Niese's splits (right-handed hitters with a .266 average, compared to lefties' .160) were significant enough to make it a good spot for Hernandez's unveiling. "So we'll take a shot at it," Hurdle said. Pedro Alvarez (Yamaico Navarro started at third) joined Jose Tabata on the bench. Both are slumping. Tabata's average is down to .223 after going 5-for-36 in his last nine games; Alvarez got his first day off since April 25, when he moved into the cleanup spot, where since he has hit .130 (7-for-54). Hurdle counts on two straight days off, with no game Thursday, will get them back on track. "Maybe that combination will help them get their legs back under them," he said.
Locke's stay brief as Grilli returns to bullpen
PITTSBURGH -- All left-hander Jeff Locke got out of his brief return to the Major Leagues was a skipped start. As Jason Grilli came off the Pirates' bereavement list on Wednesday, Locke was optioned back to Triple-A Indianapolis, where he'll jump back into the Indians' rotation.Locke had joined the Bucs' bullpen on Sunday in Detroit, but there were really never any plans to use him in a typical short relief role, something out of his milieu. Three Pittsburgh starters during Locke's stay averaged six innings, taking him out of play. "Jeff was here for a [long-relief] role that never presented itself. We were not going to use him situationally," manager Clint Hurdle said. Locke was due for his ninth start the day he was called up. He was to throw a bullpen session on Wednesday, then get back into the spin of the Indy rotation. He has a record of 3-3, with a 3.02 ERA.
Yet another offensive area in which the Pirates need major improvement is pinch-hitting. Their pinch-hitters entered Wednesday's game an NL-worst 7-for-51 (.137), and the two most frequent pinch-hitters (Nate McLouth and Yamaico Navarro) were hitless in 22 combined at-bats. Best? Casey McGehee, 3-for-6. Since dropping the first five road games of the season, the Pirates haven't lost more than two straight, a stretch of games that reached 36 on Wednesday. The only two other clubs in the Majors to not have lost more than two straight since April 14 are the Braves and the Dodgers. But in the interim neither have the Bucs won more than three in a row (May 12-14). Clint Barmes had his second two-hit game in the last four Wednesday, and is 5-for-11 in those games.
Jason Grilli, back from the bereavement list, fanned the side in the eighth, giving him 30 strikeouts in 17 innings this season.
Josh Harrison (1-for-4) stretched his hit streak to nine games, but Rod Barajas couldn't keep up as his ended at eight.
The Last Word: "Seriously, now I've got to start thinking about giving the kid a day off." -- Clint Hurdle on Harrison, who began the season looking for playing time, but has become a lineup fixture
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.