8/24/2014 3:33 P.M. ET
Martin behind plate for day game after night game
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
MILWAUKEE -- Russell Martin, the veteran catcher who ordinarily takes off a day game following a night game, was back behind the plate Sunday afternoon.
Sticking with Martin in the lineup was not only an indication of the premium placed by manager Clint Hurdle on the finale of this three-game series against the division-leading Brewers, but also a tip-off on the challenges the manager faces in trying to keep his main horses fresh for September.
Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker and Martin were all pulled out for the last two innings of Saturday night's 10-2 blowout win.
"That's not a major break -- just gives them some time off their feet. We've got to monitor Walker and McCutchen moving forward," Hurdle said of the two stalwarts who recently returned from disabling injuries. "Russell did have those two days off [Wednesday's game, then Thursday's off-day], and we'll probably do it again next week."
Martin is due to stay in the lineup for the first two games of the Cardinals series, then rest on Wednesday, which again will be followed by a Thursday off-day.
"That will give him a nice recovery time, because we'll stretch him out to some degree as we continue to run out of games," Hurdle said.
The manager's leading personnel task: finding time off for the lineup's new iron man, Josh Harrison, who has had few breaks in the three months since becoming a regular.
"Fans don't like to hear about off-days," Hurdle acknowledged, "but we've got to find time for Harrison to get off his feet."
Clint Barmes could be the key to that. The veteran infielder is in the final laps of his rehab assignment with Triple-A Indianapolis, and is expected to rejoin the Bucs during the upcoming six-game homestand.
Barmes inching closer toward return to Pirates
MILWAUKEE -- Whether Clint Barmes will be in Pittsburgh on Monday may well depend on what he does in Columbus, Ohio, on Sunday -- and how he feels afterward.
The veteran infielder, rehabbing from a strained left groin muscle, played a full game with Triple-A Indianapolis on Saturday night. Playing shortstop in Columbus, he went 2-for-4 with a walk.
The plan was for him to do so again on Sunday, then ...
"I'll make a call to check on his status and, if all goes well, he could rejoin us sometime during the Cardinals series," manager Clint Hurdle said.
The Bucs are back at PNC Park on Monday night for the opener of a three-game set with St. Louis that kicks off an August-ending six-game homestand.
Barmes has been on the DL since suffering his injury during pregame drills on July 3.
His rehab assignment began with Double-A Altoona on Aug. 14. Sunday's game would be his seventh, the last five with Indianapolis.
First number, last word
63-30: The Pirates' historical record in games in which Pedro Alvarez homers, as he did twice in Saturday night's 10-2 romp.
"If we play the best baseball we can play from this point on out, we'll find our way into the playoffs. Not a doubt in my mind. I've told them that." -- Hurdle
• Stolmy Pimentel's latest rehab outing with Double-A Altoona did not draw raves. Pimentel (right ankle sprain) walked three and allowed a hit and three runs in one-third of an inning Saturday night.
"A mixed bag," Hurdle reported. "Didn't make a bunt play, and command wasn't efficient with 25 pitches [11 of them strikes]. It wasn't an efficient outing."
• General manager Neal Huntington indicated the Pirates tried to curtail Gregory Polanco's Dominican Winter League activity to try to prevent the fatigue that may have contributed to his August slump.
"He had such a great winter ball season, his club wanted him to keep playing. He wanted to keep playing," Huntington said of Polanco, who earned both MVP and Rookie of the Year honors with Escogido. "We weren't really in position to shut him down."
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.