6/11/2013 10:36 P.M. ET
Bucs promote top prospect Cole, put Wandy on DL
Morton to make season debut Thursday; McDonald not ready to return
By Tom Singer and Steven Petrella / MLB.com
A few weeks ago, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle had a difficult decision to make regarding the short-term future of his rotation. He said he'd sort it all out when the time came.
Jeanmar Gomez was pitching well. Jeff Locke solidified his spot in the rotation with consistency. But Charlie Morton, James McDonald and Jeff Karstens were all on rehab assignments, supposed to be nearing returns.
But things have changed, and now, Hurdle doesn't have a myriad of options from which to choose. The Pirates placed lefty Wandy Rodriguez on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday with left forearm tightness, retroactive to Thursday. He left his start that day against the Braves after just one-third of an inning. Gomez is on the DL and Karstens is likely done for the season.
So Morton will make his 2013 debut Thursday, a day before the one-year anniversary of his Tommy John surgery, in place of Rodriguez, two days after Gerrit Cole's big league debut. Cole, the Pirates' No. 1 prospect, has gone 5-3 with a 2.91 ERA in 12 starts for Indianapolis.
"His last start was his best start," Hurdle said of Morton's rehab. "We pushed him pretty good and I think he's in a pretty good place."
Morton made four rehab starts for Triple-A Indianapolis, allowing eight earned runs, 16 hits and 10 walks while striking out 12 in 19 innings. He threw 6 1/3 innings Saturday and surrendered two runs, six hits and a walk with four strikeouts.
The Pirates will have to make a corresponding roster move to make room for Morton. Cole took Rodriguez's 25-man roster spot Tuesday. The Pirates made room for him on the 40-man roster by dealing John McDonald to the Indians.
While Morton will make his season debut Thursday, McDonald still has some work to do. The Durham Bulls stole seven bases off McDonald in his last rehab start. He allowed three runs on four hits and a walk over 3 2/3 innings.
McDonald was set to make his second rehab start for Indianapolis on Tuesday, and Hurdle said he'd like to see the righty throw 90 pitches. Pittsburgh's manager said he thinks McDonald will fare much better than he did in his last start for Indianapolis on Thursday.
"Strike zone command, controlling the running game will be two targets, as well," Hurdle said.
Cole, Crawford have more than UCLA connection
PITTSBURGH -- You could conclude that Gerrit Cole and Brandon Crawford are connected at the UCLA hip bone. After all, both are former Bruins. Furthermore, Brandon's sister, Amy, is dating Cole, and sat behind the Pirates dugout Tuesday night for her boyfriend's Major League debut against the Giants -- and their shortstop, Crawford.
So it might come as a surprise that the two were never teammates in Westwood, Calif. Crawford was a Giants' First-Year Player Draft pick in 2008, a few months before Cole began college.
They do have a baseball connection, however: The very night that Cole cemented his status as the Pirates' imminent national No. 1 Draft pick with a powerful performance against Arizona State in Tempe on May 27, 2011, Crawford made his big league debut -- and upstaged Cole.
The right-hander was in his third inning of work against the Sun Devils that night when Crawford slugged a grand slam in Milwaukee -- and that's what had the UCLA part of the crowd all atwitter the rest of the night, not Cole's triple-digit heat.
Although that wasn't so long ago, it has faded into a distant memory for the two centerpieces of Tuesday night's compelling attraction at PNC Park.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle figured that by the time Cole faced Crawford, batting No. 7 in San Francisco's lineup, his feet will have touched back on the ground.
"I don't think there's any way to keep him from being overamped," said Hurdle, who spent about 15 quiet minutes with the young pitcher before the regular pregame routine kicked in. "There will be emotions, RPMs, and he just needs to go through the process to get to the spot he needs to reach.
"After one or two pitches, he should start settling down. He's a big leaguer now."
Pirates apologize to fans for long lines at gates
PITTSBURGH -- Many Pirates fans hoping to see Gerrit Cole's first Major League pitch were still looking at PNC Park's outer walls when the club's top prospect took the mound Tuesday night.
Because of a new policy that requires each patron to be searched with a metal-detecting wand upon entrance, the lines were backed outside the stadium until the game had begun.
Pirates president Frank Coonelly issued a statement apologizing to fans, and said security stopped the wanding at the start of the game to clear the lines entering the stadium by the end of the first inning.
The team had this security measure planned for several weeks, beginning with Tuesday's game. Cole's debut and a lack of preparation and execution, as Coonelly put it, led to the long delays. The game drew a crowd of 30,614.
"The experience was simply unacceptable and we will ensure this does not happen again," Coonelly said. "We appreciate the support and patience of our fans."
• Karstens was back in the Pirates clubhouse, without any protection on the right arm operated only four days earlier, for cleanup of the rotator cuff and labrum -- further indication that doctors did not find as much damage as anticipated in the shoulder.
"It wasn't nearly as bad as it could've been. That's the first thing I was told, that there was no need for repairs, just a cleanup," said Karstens, who was careful to give left-handed shakes to well-wishers. "I wear a sling at night, but otherwise, nothing."
He is expected to be able to begin a throwing program in mid-September. Karstens signed a one-year contract as a free agent with the Pirates, who originally had non-tendered him.
• The last time the Giants were in PNC Park, last July, Andrew McCutchen had a showdown with Melky Cabrera in the National League batting race. This time around, he is in another race -- with Marco Scutaro providing his surprising competition.
Since the start of the 2012 season, McCutchen had 259 hits entering this series, the second-highest total of NL players. No. 1? Scutaro, with 266.
• The Bucs began this homestand having won seven straight one-run decisions at home, their longest such streak in 36 years, but only halfway to the 13 straight by the '77 club in Three Rivers Stadium.
First number, last word
10: Strikeouts averaged by Pirates batters in their last 19 games, dating back to May 21. The Bucs had whiffed in double-digits in 10 of their last 14 games going into Tuesday's action.
"He gets to blaze his own trail. You only get one debut. He's looking to make a difference here. One cool thing: when you do well here, you don't go up." ---Hurdle, on Cole's big opening night
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. Steven Petrella is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.