9/1/2014 2:22 P.M. ET
Morton could step into limited relief role for Pirates
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- Charlie Morton's one rehab start, on Thursday with Double-A Altoona, reflected his last three months with the Bucs: The results looked a lot better than how he felt.
Even while dealing with his sports hernia, Morton allowed two runs in four innings while exhibiting sharp command (one walk vs. six strikeouts).
Afterward, the righty and Pirates staff concurred that he didn't experience sufficient physical progress to make his return to the rotation a consideration.
Which brings up the question: Why would Morton be down for a simulated game, of up to 75 pitches, here on Tuesday?
Most obviously, the Pirates want Morton to keep his arm sharp, just in case.
It is also possible that the club would consider adding him to an expanded bullpen and use him in relief. Morton has no history in that role -- his only relief appearance came as a rookie with the Braves in 2008. But he acknowledged that the discomfort from the hernia grows the longer he pitches, both "from the ups and downs as a starter, and from pitches thrown."
In a very limited role, the sinkerballing Morton would pair with Jared Hughes to give manager Clint Hurdle a second September option when he needs someone to come out of bullpen to throw a double-play pitch.
Bucs expand roster -- and T. Sanchez's skill set
ST. LOUIS -- Catcher Tony Sanchez, right-hander Stolmy Pimentel and, at least technically, Gerrit Cole on Monday led off the gradual influx onto the Pirates' expanded roster.
Sanchez was recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis, Pimentel (sprained right ankle) came off the DL and Cole was recalled from Rookie-level Bristol.
The trio of moves increased the clubhouse head count to 28. With Indianapolis concluding its season on Monday -- and, at 73-70 , no playoffs in sight -- more arrivals are expected on Tuesday.
As was the case with Cole, who started Monday afternoon's game here, lefty Jeff Locke will be recalled from Triple-A to start the second game of this key series against the Cardinals. He will have company.
"I anticipate some more guys joining us [Tuesday]," manager Clint Hurdle said.
The most intriguing member of the first wave is Sanchez, a principal in the Bucs' first seven weeks of the season, while Chris Stewart and Russell Martin both served DL time. Sanchez then returned to Indianapolis to work on his catching -- and wound up August working out at first base.
"Could it be another position where he can post-up to provide an opportunity for the bat to play? Can't see why not," Hurdle said.
Sanchez, accustomed to being involved in every pitch as a lifelong catcher, did not sound enthusiastic about the new position.
"I hate it," Sanchez said, softening the impact of those words with a bemused smile. "Extremely boring. I'm out there like a dog playing fetch, trying to go after every ball. It'll take more than a couple weeks of taking ground balls for them to even consider me an option at first base."
First number, last word
.339: Lifetime average in St. Louis' Busch Stadium for Jose Tabata. He was 40-for-118 in 29 games, with nine doubles and two home runs.
"I don't know if he got there, because players have 72 hours to report after getting optioned. But I saw him this morning, so I know he is back." -- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle on Gerrit Cole, who "returned" from the Minors to start Monday against the Cardinals, after having been "optioned" to Rookie-level Bristol on Friday.
• On Sunday, the Pirates selected the contract of right-hander John Holdzkom and optioned him to Triple-A Indianapolis. That means Holdzkom was added to the 40-man roster and became postseason eligible. To make room for Holdzkom on the 40-man roster, first baseman Chris McGuiness was designated for assignment.
Holdzkom, 26, was signed earlier this summer out of the independent United League Baseball, and had 27 strikeouts in 21 2/3 innings with the Indians.
• Travis Snider (left hamstring) was a possibility off the bench on Monday, but Pedro Alvarez (sprained left foot) wasn't as close to returning on the field.
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.