5/8/2013 6:40 P.M. ET
Pirates select honorary bat girl for Mother's Day
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
PITTSBURGH -- Maria Heddleston has been selected as the Pirates' honorary bat girl for upcoming Mother's Day celebrations at PNC Park.
The selection of honorary bat girls for all 30 Major League clubs, begun in 2009 to further raise awareness of MLB's "Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer" program, is through fan voting.
Additionally, input is given by a panel of five judges, which included the Pirates' Andrew McCutchen.
During MLB's annual Mother's Day national day of recognition, honorary bat girls will take part in pregame activities, be honored during an on-field ceremony, and will receive pink MLB merchandise and two tickets to the game.
The Bucs will be in New York on the actual Mother's Day, this Sunday. Like other clubs away on that day, the Pirates will designate another home game later in May to recognize Marie.
Welker called up as Bucs face his hometown team
PITTSBURGH -- Duke Welker's first day in the Major Leagues just had to come with the Seattle Mariners in the opposite dugout.
The Pirates recalled the right-hander from Indianapolis on Wednesday, much to the relief of the Triple-A hitters who have spent a month trying to hit him unsuccessfully. Infielder Josh Harrison was optioned back to the Indians to make room for Welker.
Not only is the reliever a native of Kirkland, Wash., a community neighboring Seattle, but he was twice drafted by the Mariners before the Pirates took him in the second round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft.
However, as that long ensuing wait implies, the opposition was secondary to Welker finally reaching the Majors.
"It is kinda funny that it's Seattle," said Welker, trying on his new No. 61 uniform in the Pirates' clubhouse. "But I just want to win, so it doesn't really matter."
Welker's first emotional phone call upon being notified of his promotion Tuesday night had been to his dad.
"To be able to say to your dad that I'm going to the Majors, it's kinda cool," Welker said. "I haven't really relished the experience yet. I'm taking it in stride.
"I just know I'm here and have a good opportunity with a great team and a good group of guys. I'm just excited to be here. I don't know when it'll hit me."
No one was hitting Welker in Indianapolis, where he held the opposition to three hits in 48 at-bats. In 10 relief appearances, he was 3-0 and didn't give up a single earned run, with 20 strikeouts and eight walks in 16 innings.
That performance crowned his remarkable rise from what appeared to be a failed career as a starter four years ago. From 2007-09, Welker went 6-26 with a five-plus ERA.
Pirates display pitching depth with three starters on DL
PITTSBURGH -- James McDonald went down with a shoulder issue that still awaits medical diagnosis. Charlie Morton and Jeff Karstens are still down.
Yet, despite the fact that 60 percent of their 2012 starting rotation is on the disabled list, the Pirates are not down, and the club took a solid record of 18-14 into Wednesday afternoon's Interleague game against Seattle.
A team veteran such as Andrew McCutchen has certainly noticed, and he is encouraged by the trend. He doesn't have to think too far back to when the team was too thin to withstand such injuries.
"In the past, in such situations, we'd go down fast. Now we've got guys to pick up the slack," McCutchen said. "It's scary how good a pitching staff we'll have when everybody is healthy."
"Scary" is an adjective often applied to Pirates teams of the recent past -- but not with the same connotation.
The latest to pick up the slack is Jeanmar Gomez, who stepped into the void left by McDonald's disablement to pitch five shutout innings in Tuesday night's victory. Not surprisingly, Gomez will keep that spot in the rotation and start on Sunday against the Mets in New York.
"He showed good maturity," Garrett Jones said of Gomez's emergency effort. "He took the ball and just went after it."
• Catcher Russell Martin remained out of the lineup as he continued to receive treatment for the stiff neck that had sidelined him Tuesday night. Martin reported that his neck "just locked up on him" as he was going through workouts early Tuesday afternoon.
• Charlie Morton (shoulder tightness) is expected to throw a bullpen session either Thursday or Friday in New York.
• Jeff Karstens (shoulder inflammation) was scheduled to throw two innings on Wednesday in extended spring camp.
• Lefties Jeff Locke and Wandy Rodriguez will have a chance to literally strike a blow for fans savings in the first two games of the upcoming series with the Mets in New York. For every Pirates strikeout in those two games -- by the whole staff, not just the starters -- a dollar will be discounted off the price of lower-outfield and outfield box seats for May 13-17 PNC Park games against Milwaukee and Houston.
That tote board will be cumulative. So if the Bucs keep up with their per-game average of eight strikeouts to total 16 in those two, $32 lower-outfield boxes would go for $16 and $28 outfield boxes for $12 for the five home games in question.
• The Pirates on Wednesday unconditionally released left-hander Jonathan Sanchez, who had been designated for assignment on April 28.
First number, last word
8: Four-hit games by Andrew McCutchen since the start of the 2012 season, the most in the Major Leagues.
"It's a feel-good, great day for the scout who signed him. It's like having a child, from the scouting perspective. I love it when we call up one of our own." -- Hurdle, on Welker's first day in the Majors, nearly six years after being drafted by the Pirates on the recommendation of scout Mike Leuzinger
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.