8/12/2014 12:08 A.M. ET
Pirates mulling next step for rehabbing Cole
By Stephen Pianovich / MLB.com
PITTSBURGH -- Gerrit Cole returned to the Pirates' clubhouse Monday with three rehab starts under his belt, as the team tries to figure out the next step for the right-hander.
Cole has been sidelined since early July with a strained right lat, and has started three times for Triple-A Indianapolis in the last two weeks. His third start saw a much better result than his second, as he surrendered just one hit and struck out three over six scoreless innings on Sunday.
"It was good work yesterday, it was efficient," said Cole, who noted he had yet to meet with the team to talk about if his next outing would be in black and gold. "Good location, all four pitches. It was a nice outing."
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said he would have a conversation with pitching coach Ray Searage and general manager Neal Huntington about Cole's immediate future. Hurdle called the start "very good" and the only thing he aired a concern about was Cole's pitch count of 74.
"The number of pitches is something we'll need to talk about -- how many more can we anticipate from him next time he gets the ball, because that does make a difference," Hurdle said. "But it was a real good step. He added the conviction and the competition."
The six shutout frames came five days after Cole was hit hard in his second rehab appearance -- giving up five runs on 10 hits in 4 1/3 innings. That start was delayed three days as the team wanted Cole to focus on his mechanics -- including his arm slot and what he called "discipline through my delivery."
"It just needed to be cleaned up," Cole said. "Coming back, there are a lot of things on your mind, in terms of mechanics. They just wanted to get a few things nailed down."
In his second Major League season, Cole is 7-4 with a 3.78 ERA and 1.307 WHIP in 14 starts this season. However, he's pitched just twice since June 3, as he also was sidelined for more than a month with right shoulder fatigue.
Cole and the Pirates have been much more meticulous throughout this rehab process. And despite feeling soreness after his initial rehab appearance, Cole said his back felt OK 24 hours after his latest start.
"[It's] a little tight from the plane," he said. "But it's all right. It's good."
Bat boy injured in fall at Pirates-Tigers game
PITTSBURGH -- A bat boy injured his left knee in a fall on the field during the Tigers-Pirates game Monday night at PNC Park.
The bat boy was headed off the infield to the Tigers' dugout following Rajai Davis' two-run double in the top of the eighth inning when he slipped and fell backwards near the first-base coaching box. According to Tigers head athletic trainer Kevin Rand, his left knee gave out from under him.
Rand, Tigers assistant athletic trainer Doug Teter and first-base coach Omar Vizquel attended to him as he lay on the ground, seemingly shaken. Rand and Teter helped him off the field as the crowd, which had noticed the fall, quietly cheered.
The bat boy, later moving around on crutches, will be examined by Pirates team doctors on Tuesday, Rand said, and will undergo an MRI exam.
Alvarez continues work at first, nears start
PITTSBURGH -- The "Alvarez across the diamond" experiment is less than a week old, but Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said a start at first base could come to fruition sooner than later.
"He's working his backside off to find a level of comfort and say, 'OK, I'm ready to go over there in a Major League game,'" Hurdle said of Alvarez.
"I think we're real close to that. There will be a day here soon when you'll see him over there."
The Pirates started working out Alvarez at first base on Friday after he was activated from the bereavement list. A lifelong third baseman, Alvarez's throwing problems have resulted in a major decrease in his playing time.
Alvarez leads the Majors with 24 errors -- 23 of which have been throwing miscues. The problem has also increased as the season has gone on, and the 27-year-old has started just once this month.
Hurdle and Alvarez both said they're not going to give up on him as a third baseman (he played the hot corner in the final two innings of the Pirates' Sunday loss to the Padres, entering during a double switch). However, the majority of his pregame work has been on the first-base side of the diamond in the last few days.
Hours before the Pirates hosted the Tigers on Monday night, Alvarez was the lone player on the field, working with coaches on his footwork, throws to second and scoops he'd have to make at first.
Hurdle looked on from home plate as Alvarez continued his transition, but the manager knows the best judgment will come from live action.
"You can do all the practice drills you want," Hurdle said. "... When you get into a game, you always have an opportunity to identify some areas you've got to work, put more attention on."
First number, last word
11-5: The Pirates' record without Andrew McCutchen in the starting lineup since the beginning of the 2013 season. McCutchen was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a fractured rib on Monday.
"Very interesting -- I don't believe I've been in a situation like this before with two of your better players out, and at the end of the day, you've got to make decisions that you have convictions about." -- Hurdle, on putting together a lineup when McCutchen and Neil Walker are unavailable.
• Pirates catcher Russell Martin needs three hits for 1,000 in his career. He has also gone 11-for-29 over his eight-game hitting streak heading into Monday's game.
Stephen Pianovich is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.