7/20/2014 3:48 P.M. ET
Huntington confident about Bucs' roster
By Stephen Pianovich / MLB.com
PITTSBURGH -- Through 97 games a year ago, the Pirates were 19 games above .500 and had a three-game cushion as the top Wild Card team in the National League. At that point this season, the Bucs are very much in the playoff hunt, but just five games above the break-even mark.
From a personnel standpoint, however, Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said he has a better feeling about where his team's roster is at this point in 2014 opposed to where it was last season.
"We felt less comfortable with last year's club, as silly as it sounds with the win-loss record," Huntington said Sunday. "But we had a pretty glaring need in right field that we went out and addressed, and even at first base. … As we sit here right now, we have some internal options that if they step forward, we're going to get some quality production from them. But we'll still look to get better if there's an opportunity out there."
The Pirates made post-July waiver moves in 2013 to secure right fielder Marlon Byrd and first baseman Justin Morneau to boost their postseason run.
With the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline less than two weeks away, Huntington was non-committal in saying if the Pirates would make a deal. And, like all teams in playoff contention, Huntington noted the Pirates are testing the market.
"We have some guys that still have room to grow," Huntington said. "We don't have a ton of guys having career years. We've got some guys we think are on the rebound or we think are ready to take steps forward. But there are also players out there, whether it's starting pitching, relievers, position players, role players that we think can help us."
Marte comes off bench to hit after missing two starts
PITTSBURGH -- Starling Marte came off the bench and pinch-hit in the sixth inning Sunday. It was noteworthy because it was his first action after being held out of the Pirates' starting lineup two consecutive games as he dealt with head trauma from a fastball he took off the helmet Friday night.
Marte -- who was hit with a 93-mph fastball from Rockies reliever Adam Ottavino -- drew a walk in his at-bat, hitting in place of starter Jeff Locke. Marte was unavailable in Saturday's 3-2 extra-inning victory against Colorado, and manager Clint Hurdle wasn't sure of his Sunday status until a few hours before the game.
General manager Neal Huntington noted the team was going through "concussion protocol" with Marte.
"He's making great progress, but it is a gray area," Huntington said prior to Sunday's series finale. "He may wake up two days from now and have regressed, or he may wake up two days from now and feel ready to go."
Marte initially stayed in the game Friday after being evaluated by trainers on the field, but was eventually replaced defensively in the ninth inning. In his third Major League season, Marte is hitting .258 with 26 extra-base hits and 21 stolen bases in 85 games.
First number, last word
5: Number of consecutive home wins the Pirates had entering Sunday's series finale against the Rockies. Before the All-Star break, the Bucs swept the Phillies at PNC Park, marking their first sweep of the season in nine attempts. They were the last team in the Majors to accomplish the feat this season as they attempted to get the brooms out again Sunday.
"I think the MVP is the baddest dude in the league. And sometimes the baddest dude in the league doesn't play on a playoff team." -- Clint Hurdle, on whether the league's Most Valuable Player needs to be on a successful team.
• Gerrit Cole threw a 35-40 pitches in a bullpen session Sunday morning. The right-hander has been on the disabled list for two weeks -- his second DL stay of the season -- with tightness in his right lat. Cole is 7-4 with a 3.78 in 14 starts.
"Gerrit had a good bullpen today and we'll see how he feels tomorrow and see what the next step is. ... Is it another bullpen, another sim game?" Huntington said. "But a very good day for Gerrit."
• The Pirates had their 12th sellout of the season at PNC Park on Saturday night when 37,396 fans watched their 3-2 extra-innings win against the Rockies. PNC Park has sold out eight of its last 12 games.
Stephen Pianovich is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.