5/1/2013 7:59 P.M. ET
Liriano, Morton close to returning to Bucs' rotation
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
MILWAUKEE -- Jeanmar Gomez allowed two earned runs in four innings in his first start on Wednesday afternoon, which will dictate whether he gets to make another start. But the Pirates had the luxury of not sweating how Gomez responded to the opportunity -- thanks to two approaching off-days and two approaching pitchers.
Not only are left-hander Francisco Liriano (right-arm fracture) and Charlie Morton (Tommy John surgery) wrapping up Minor League rehabilitation stints -- they are already pencilled into Pirates manager Clint Hurdle's rotation.
Liriano has one rehab start remaining -- on Sunday -- and could make his Pirates debut on May 11, in New York against the Mets.
Morton is tentatively scheduled to make two more rehab starts and make his Pirates return on May 14, against the Brewers at PNC Park.
"There it is," Hurdle said. "It's laid out. The best guys are going to pitch. And we'll have some very interesting decisions to make here, sooner rather than later."
The as-yet-unknown Gomez and James McDonald are the two weak links in the current five-man rotation. Off-days on Thursday and Monday will enable the Bucs to skip a right-hander of their choosing.
"The off-days do give us a chance to maneuver pitchers around. We've got some options in front of us," Hurdle said.
The reports on Liriano continue to be excellent. His velocity (90-94 mph) and command have been sharp, and he hasn't run into any problems fielding his position or handling the bat. Statistics tend to be shrugged off in such rehab scenarios, but Liriano's two starts with Triple-A Indianapolis are noteworthy for 17 strikeouts without a walk in 11 innings.
Tabata leaves game with left leg injury
MILWAUKEE -- Pirates outfielder Jose Tabata came out of Wednesday afternoon's game against the Brewers with an undisclosed injury to his left leg while stealing the go-ahead run into scoring position.
With the score tied at 4 and two outs in the eighth, Tabata stole second, his first steal of the season. As he slid across the base right-foot first, he jammed his left foot into the bag and limped off the field with the help of assistant athletic trainer Ben Potenziano.
James McDonald ran for Tabata, and scored the go-ahead run on a single by Brandon Inge. The Pirates ended up with a 6-4 victory over the Brewers.
"He jammed his left leg going into the base," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of Tabata. "He'll see the doctors back in Pittsburgh and be evaluated on Friday."
Marte displaying first-inning magic atop lineup
MILWAUKEE -- The Pirates have been careful to not get too carried away with the first month of Starling Marte's first full Major League season, to avoid burdening him with expectations.
So Marte's .327 average entering Wednesday's game and 7-for-9 stolen base rate, plus his defensive artistry, have received modest praise in the small-sample-size category.
But that game-opening magic ... it's tough to shrug off the crazy numbers. Entering Wednesday afternoon's game, Marte was 14-for-22 (.636) starting games, with a game-opening on-base percentage of .692, having reached base 18-of-26 times. He popped out in foul ground to start Wednesday's game, but hit a clutch game-tying two-run homer in the eighth inning to propel Pittsburgh to a 6-4 win. He now has three homers and 13 RBIs.
"The numbers are eye-opening," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle admitted. "Preparation is part of it, and another big part is laying off bad pitches. His swing has been in a good place, Opening Day to now.
"You don't expect him to hit .600 in the first inning all-time, but to even carry it a month is pretty interesting. He's got a chance to be a very dynamic leadoff hitter with the skill-set he has, and it's been fun to watch."
Marte, of course, has had a big part in the Pirates' first-inning offense. They've scored in the first inning in nine of the season's first 28 games.
• Travis Snider (right-side tightness) remained out of the starting lineup, but pinch-hit for the second straight day, going 1-for-2 with a run scored. Hurdle plans to give him a start on Saturday, against the Nationals' Stephen Strasburg.
• Prior to Sunday in St. Louis and Tuesday night here, the last time the Pirates had a pair of four-homer games within a three-game span was April 11-12, 2006, when they did it in the season's first two games, against the Dodgers. They hit three on Wednesday.
• Not only had Brandon Inge hit safely in his first seven games with the Pirates, but in 26 of 28 games reverting back to last season with the Oakland A's. He continued that streak with a 2-for-4 performance on Wednesday, with an RBI and run scored. He's now hitting .321 on the season.
• A.J. Burnett came out of April as the first Pirates pitcher to lead the NL in strikeouts (48) into May since Bob Friend in 1956 -- with 14! Yes, that season began much later: Friend was the Bucs' Opening Day starter on April 17.
First number, last word
0.30: ERA of Stolmy Pimentel, the 23-year-old right-hander acquired from Boston as part of the package for Joel Hanrahan, in five starts with Double-A Altoona.
"Once I get locked in, there'll be no stopping me." -- Andrew McCutchen, confident in his approach even when the results aren't there.
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.