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7/18/2014 6:22 P.M. ET

String of lefties awaits Pirates in second half

PITTSBURGH -- There were times in the first half of the season when Clint Hurdle said he wished his team would face more lefties on the mound.

Even in the right-handed-heavy National League Central, the Pirates saw an uncanny few amount of southpaw starters -- just 12 in their first 95 games. The mark is the fewest in baseball by a fair margin (the Braves have gone against 16 left-handed starters).

But as the second half opens Friday, Hurdle is getting his wish, and the right-handed bats in the Bucs' order can collectively say "about time." The Pirates face four consecutive left-handed starters, which began Friday with Colorado's Jorge De La Rosa.

Hurdle said he was unaware of this stretch until he saw the schedule in his office after he returned from his role as an assistant coach in Tuesday's All-Star Game. He pointed out the Pirates, who are 6-6 in games started by southpaws, should go against six lefties in their first eight second half games, as they play the Rockies again next weekend.

"It will give our guys a chance to see some consistent left-handed pitching, which we have not seen in two years," said Hurdle, whose team also went against the fewest lefties in 2013, seeing 31. "We'll see how that fares out for us."

Right-handed-hitting first baseman Gaby Sanchez (.270/.333/.492 against lefties this season), who platoons with Ike Davis, was in the lineup for Friday's series opener. Sanchez made 30 starts in the first half and will see his most active stretch of the season since the team traded for Davis in mid-April.

Cole throws bullpen session, awaits evaluation

PITTSBURGH -- Gerrit Cole threw a 30-pitch bullpen session Wednesday, and the Pirates are going to evaluate the right-hander before deciding on a rehab plan of action.

Cole left a July 4 start against the Phillies with tightness in his right lat and is on the disabled list for the second time this season. Manager Clint Hurdle has already said Cole will make a rehab start before rejoining the Major League rotation -- something he didn't do after developing right shoulder fatigue in June -- but doesn't yet have an exact timeframe of when that will happen.

"[Pitching coach Ray Searage] said it went very well," Hurdle said of Cole's bullpen session. "It was fastball, changeup. It was 30 pitches. So after he settles down [Friday], we'll revisit and plan the next step."

In his second season with the Pirates, Cole is 7-4 with a 3.78 ERA, 1.307 WHIP and 78 strikeouts in 14 starts (85 2/3 innings).

Pirates ink 32 picks from First-Year Player Draft

PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates signed 32 picks from the 2014 First-Year Player Draft, the franchise's most since also signing 32 in 2008. The deadline to sign picks was 5 p.m. ET on Friday.

Most notably, the Bucs agreed to terms with first-round selection Cole Tucker. A shortstop, Tucker's professional career is underway with the Gulf Coast Pirates where he's hitting .245/.403/.283 in his first 16 games.

Pittsburgh was also able to sign every pick it made in the first 22 rounds. The highest picks the Pirates didn't sign were high schoolers Zach Warren and Denis Karas, taken in the 23rd and 24th rounds, respectively.

Prospect Sampson nearly completes no-hitter

Right-hander Adrian Sampson, the Pirates' No. 19 prospect, took a no-hitter into the ninth inning Friday. Though a one-out double ended his bid, he finished off the shutout and Double-A Altoona defeated Bowie, 3-0.

Entering the ninth inning, Bowie had managed to get just two baserunners against Sampson. In the first inning, Niuman Romero reached on an error by first baseman Stetson Allie and Kyeong Kang drew a walk in the seventh. Otherwise, Sampson had cruised through the first eight innings.

Sampson got a quick groundout to open the ninth inning, bringing Mike Yastrzemski to the plate. He had grounded out twice and popped out in his first three at bats, but, facing Sampson for the fourth time, he lined an 0-2 pitch down the left field line for a double.

Sampson quickly recovered and retired the next two batters to complete the shutout, the first of his career. He struck out two batters and threw 98 pitches.

Sampson didn't need much offense Friday night and the Curve supplied just enough, scoring three runs on seven hits. Outfielder Josh Bell, the Pirates' No. 5 prospect, contributed one of the hits, his first since getting promoted Thursday from Class A Advanced Bradenton.

With the victory, Sampson improved to 8-5 with a 2.58 ERA. He has struck out 86 batters and walked 28 in 122 innings this season. The 22-year-old ranks third in the Eastern League in ERA and first in innings pitched.

First number, last word

15: The number of consecutive games the Pirates will play against the NL West, starting Friday against the Rockies. The Bucs are 9-4 against the division so far this season, and they also started their 2014 campaign with 26 straight games against NL Central opponents.

"As I'm going through my mind, I'm thinking 'Robinson, Kaline, Brett, Ripken, Jones, Jeter.' This might be the end of the back-of-the-bubble-gum, one-team guy." -- Clint Hurdle, reflecting on Derek Jeter receiving an ovation at this week's All-Star Game in Minneapolis.

Worth noting

• Pirates prospect Josh Bell was promoted to Double-A Altoona earlier in the week. Bell, a 21-year-old outfielder, went 0-for-2 with two walks in his debut. He hit .335 for Class A Advanced Bradenton this season and was ranked by MLB.com as the No. 74 prospect entering 2014.

• The Pirates started the second half of their 2013 season with a 5-3 defeat to the Reds. Francisco Liriano, who started Friday night's game against the Rockies, also got the nod last season and was tagged for five runs in the loss.

Stephen Pianovich is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Teddy Cahill is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @tedcahill. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.