7/20/2013 4:11 P.M. ET
Pirates confident in Locke's health for Cincy finale
By Jeremy Warnemuende / MLB.com
CINCINNATI -- Jeff Locke hasn't pitched since July 8 and missed out on a chance to play in the All-Star Game because of lower back stiffness, but when the 25-year-old left-hander takes the mound on Sunday against the Reds, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said he'll do so without limitations.
"I don't think we'll have him under a microscope by any means, but we'll just watch him pitch," Hurdle said. "I think his body will tell us how his back shapes up."
Locke was scheduled to pitch in the Pirates' last game before the break on July 14, but he was scratched after feeling the stiffness in his back in his most recent start against Oakland. Thanks to an 8-2 record and 2.15 ERA in 18 starts, Locke was selected as an All-Star. He traveled to New York but did not participate in the game, giving him 12 days between starts.
Hurdle said previously that a nice extended break could be all that Locke needs, and he doesn't expect any issues on Sunday.
"I think he'll let us know how he feels," Hurdle said. "He threw his bullpen very clean and efficient yesterday, which isn't a game. He seems to be very encouraged by what he feels so far, and he's looking forward to the outing."
Hurdle, Pirates keeping trade considerations 'in house'
CINCINNATI -- As the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline approaches, manager Clint Hurdle knows what type of piece he would like the Pirates to add. He knows what his team needs and what would give it a better chance of finishing the season with a winning record for the first time in 20 years. He just doesn't want to tell anybody.
"My talk is all with [general manager Neal Huntington], the coaches and our scouts," Hurdle said. "I think we're very confident that we have a very good grasp on what's worked, what we could use more of, and we'll keep those conversations in house."
With the Pirates' pitching staff -- rotation and bullpen -- in good shape for the most part, the expectation is that Pittsburgh will look to add a position player, particularly a right fielder. Entering Saturday, Pirates right fielders were batting just .235 with eight home runs and 34 RBIs. Including Saturday, Jose Tabata has started the last 13 games in right for Pittsburgh, and he's done well at the plate in that stretch, batting .311 (14-for-50) with five extra-base hits and four walks.
However, Tabata, who's spent the season going from corner to corner in the outfield, has no home runs during that period and just two total on the year, leading many to believe the Pirates are in search of an outfielder with some pop. On Friday night, while the Pirates were taking on the Reds in Cincinnati, rumors swirled that Pittsburgh had done just that after the White Sox Alex Rios was pulled from a game early against the Braves and was seen hugging teammates in the dugout.
Fast forward to Saturday. Rios was still with the White Sox, and the Pirates' roster remained intact.
Hurdle said he had no idea about the rumors and knew only that White Sox manager Robin Ventura had yanked Rios for not running out a ground ball. That's because, "in an age when nobody cares if they're right, they just want to be first," Hurdle tunes out everything he doesn't need to hear.
"I'm definitely unplugged," Hurdle said. "I pay attention to people I need to pay attention to that I'm going to get accurate information from."
Those people include Huntington, who keeps Hurdle in the loop on every conversation he has with other teams' general managers. And as trade talks develop, Hurdle has enjoyed being a part of them.
"He didn't just start this process yesterday," Hurdle said of Huntington. "He's been at it for a couple weeks, and it's always an interesting process to go through and to listen to obviously some of the posturing, the dancing that goes on initially."
Huntington took some heat for last season's Deadline moves, which included the additions of Gaby Sanchez, Travis Snider and Wandy Rodriguez, because of how they affected team chemistry. However, Hurdle said that has been overblown, and everyone in the clubhouse wants whatever it takes for the Pirates to be at their best.
"I have a very good feel for [the players'] thoughts and their feelings about the clubhouse chemistry and how things can play out, how things might play out," Hurdle said. "They're all committed to the club getting better. If we can improve, improve."
• As expected, second baseman Neil Walker played five innings in a rehab start for Triple-A Indianapolis on Friday, going 0-for-3 with a strikeout. Hurdle said Walker is scheduled to play seven innings on Saturday night.
• Injured starters James McDonald and Wandy Rodriguez are both tentatively scheduled to start throwing programs in the next week.
Jeremy Warnemuende is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.