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7/13/2013 8:03 P.M. ET

Pirates not planning to shut down Cole early

PITTSBURGH -- While scaling each rung of the Pirates' Minor League ladder last year, Gerrit Cole totaled 132 innings. In Sunday's start against the Mets -- an unexpected assignment to give scheduled pitcher Jeff Locke's tight lower back additional time to quiet down -- Cole in all likelihood will cross the 110-inning mark for this season.

This will come with 2 1/2 more months remaining in the Pirates' title chase. However, the right-hander is along for the ride, according to manager Clint Hurdle, who essentially asserted, "Gerrit is a big boy. He can handle it."

To be precise, what the Bucs skipper said was that Cole "has got the frame and physical strength to repeat his delivery. There is nothing saying right now that he will be cut off prematurely."

Hurdle and staff, coaching and training, have done their due diligence on the makeup of the 6-foot-4, 240-pound 22-year-old.

"We've had those internal discussions about innings," Hurdle said. "We've talked with our strength-and-conditioning guy [Brendon Huttmann] since we got our hands on [Cole]. He's been in the organization for two years and everything has been monitored, so we feel good about the place we're at. He's in a good place to manage this season."

Locke scratched from Sunday start, All-Star Game

PITTSBURGH -- All-Star left-hander Jeff Locke was a double-scratch Saturday: After experiencing some lower back stiffness following his most recent start, he was removed from his scheduled start on Sunday as well as from the National League roster for Tuesday's All-Star Game.

Gerrit Cole instead will face the Mets on his regular pitching schedule in the finale of the season's ceremonial first half.

NL manager Bruce Bochy will name a replacement on his All-Star staff for Locke, who will still attend festivities in New York and at Citi Field on a non-participatory basis.

The young lefty already has a reserved spot in the post-All-Star break rotation -- he is scheduled to pitch on Sunday, July 21, in Cincinnati -- so this appears to be a minor timeout facilitated by the four-day All-Star break.

"Really, we could not have had a better time to take care of that type of physical issue," said manager Clint Hurdle.

Locke reported the discomfort after a seven-inning outing on Monday against Oakland. He went through his regular bullpen session on Friday, when the tightness continued.

"He felt just a little off," Hurdle said. "But he was on the mound [Friday], so we know he's close. With the four additional days [off for the break], next Sunday he will be in a good place."

General manager Neal Huntington, trainer Todd Tomczyk, Hurdle and Locke took a meeting before deciding on their course of action.

"Jeff said, 'If push came to shove, I could probably do it. But I think it'd be selfish of me to go out there and pitch.' So that's where we are," Hurdle said.

The manager also announced his post-break rotation around Locke: Francisco Liriano and A.J. Burnett before him, in the first two games against the Reds, and Charlie Morton and Cole after him, in Washington against the Nationals.

Worth noting

• In his first three games this week as Pittsburgh's cleanup hitter, Pedro Alvarez hit two home runs -- compared to one in 24 games all last season in the four-hole.

• The 20 relief wins by the Pirates trail only Arizona's 21 among Major League teams. Justin Wilson and Vin Mazzaro each have five of those -- more wins than A.J. Burnett, who took a record of 4-6 into Saturday night's start against New York.

First number, last word

81.4 percent -- Rate at which Pirates relievers are stranding inherited runners. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the 10 teams since 1990 that stranded 77-plus percent of inherited runners averaged 97 wins.

"I just think it's really cool to see everyone line up along the baselines in all the different uniforms. It's very impactful. You get everything, all in one night." -- Hurdle, who managed the 2008 NL squad, on what makes baseball's All-Star Game so unique and special.

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.