Daniel McCutchen will start Saturday


ARLINGTON, Texas — The Pirates equipment crew was spotted packing a Daniel McCutchen — it was No. 34, not Andrew’s No. 22 — jersey for the trip to Oakland, a sure indication the right-hander will make a spot start Saturday against the Athletics.

McCutchen probably also will make a second spot start July 1 in place of injured Zach Duke. However, that could change … IF Charlie Morton turns in a very strong performance tonight for Triple-A Indianapolis, and IF McCutchen struggles Saturday. In that case, Morton likely would start for the Pirates on July 1 against the Phillies.

Those are two very big ifs, though.

The Pirates still have time to allow Morton to continue his 30-day rehab assignment with Indy. “We want to make sure we do whatever we have to do to get him back on track,” GM Neal Huntington said.

Morton has looked good, albeit not great, so far for Indy. The shoulder fatigue that landed Morton on the DL no longer is an issue. The right-hander has worked with a sports psychologist, trying to clear the mental hurdles which often cause him to fall apart on the mound.

»»» Steve Pearce is nearing the end of his 20-day rehab stint with Indy, and the Pirates soon will be forced to make a tough decision on whether or not to recall him to the majors. Pearce’s ankle has healed, and he is back to full speed at the plate, on the basepaths and in the field.

The arrivals of Jose Tabata and Pedro Alvarez effectively took away options for Pearce to get playing time. “Keeping Steve on the bench at the major league level might not be in his best interests or in ours,” Huntington said. “It might be better for him to play every day (at Indy).”

»»» If the Pirates bring up either Pearce or Morton, the move would carry some risk. If a player is called up, then is quickly sent back down, he cannot return to the majors for 10 days.

The Pirates considered bringing up Pearce to act as a DH in Texas and Oakland. They changed course last night, when Paul Maholm’s one-inning outing overtaxed the bullpen and made it necessary to call up relievers Justin Thomas and Steven Jackson.

»»» Friday, Aki Iwamura will report to Indy, where he will split time with Jim Negrych at second base and third base. The Pirates want to be careful not to rob playing time from Negrych, a developing prospect, but also want to boost Iwamura’s trade value. Negrych projects as a super-utility type of player in the majors, so the Pirates want to use him in multiple roles at Indy.

»»» The Pirates are willing to listen to trade offers for righty Dana Eveland, who this morning was designated for assignment. If nothing pans out and Eveland clears waivers, he will be sent to Indy.

»»» Catcher Tony Sanchez is expected to miss six to eight weeks after having surgery this afternoon to repair his fractured jaw.ch