Presley, McPherson added for playoff roster



MILWAUKEE — OF Alex Presley and RHP Kyle McPherson were called up today, which makes them both eligible for the postseason roster. 1B Jeff Clement was outrighted to High-A Bradenton and INF Chase d’Arnaud was optioned to Bradenton. Clement and d’Arnaud will rejoin the team Monday in Pittsburgh, as Bradenton’s season ends Sunday. If they had gone down to Triple-A Indy, they’d have to wait 10 days before returning to Pittsburgh.

Major league active rosters can be expanded Saturday, meaning the Pirates can bring up anyone from the minors who’s on their 40-man roster. Eric Fryer, Jeff Locke and Justin Wilson would seem to be sure callups. Other possibilities: Yamaico Navarro, Matt Hague, Chris Leroux (who isn’t on the 40-man yet), Bryan Morris, Evan Meek, Daniel McCutchen and (once he finishes his rehab assignment) Gustavo Nunez. The Pirates probably will do a couple of waves of callups, the first tomorrow and another once Indy ends its run in the Triple-A International League playoffs.

»»» Speaking of Locke, it sure looks as if he will fill Erik Bedard’s spot in the starting rotation. A short while ago, manager Clint Hurdle said the rotation will be announced tomorrow, after the callups arrive from Indy.

»»» CF Andrew McCutchen is just getting some extra time off today. “It seemed like a good time to piggyback with an off day,” Hurdle said. The last time McCutchen was not in the starting lineup was game 100 in Houston, and he wound up pinch-hitting that day.

»»» Check out the video above — “Buctown 4.0″ by Pittsburgh Slim. Thanks to Chukky Okobi, executive VP of Four Twelve Records, for the info.

»»» The Pirates have posted back-to-back shutouts and have not allowed a run in their past 21 innings overall. Each of the team’s past three wins was by shutout. The last time the Pirates ran off three straight shutouts was 1976, when they beat the Cardinals 8-0 on Oct. 2 and took a pair of 1-0 wins in a doubleheader against St. Louis on Oct. 3.

»»» In six games this season at Miller Park, the Pirates have hit 11 home runs, which is the most by any visiting team here. Seven players — Garrett Jones, Andrew McCutchen, Rod Barajas, Clint Barmes, Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez and Casey McGehee — have gone deep at Bernie Brewer’s house.

»»» Indy named RHP Rick VandenHurk its team MVP after going 12-5 with a 3.07 ERA in 20 outings (18 starts). Other team awards went to RHP Tim Wood (reliever of the year), LHP Locke (starting pitcher of the year), 2B/3B/SS Anderson Hernandez (defensive player of the year) and OF Brandon Boggs (offensive player of the year).

»»» According to Bloomberg BusinessWeek, the Pirates rank 23rd on the list of “smartest spenders” among pro sports franchises. The rankings are determined via a calculation of payroll amounts and regular- and post-season wins over the past five years. BBW gives the Pirates an efficiency index of minus-0.89, which makes them the fifth-best MLB team (the lower the number, the better the ranking). The Penguins (minus-1.4352) rank third overall and the Steelers (minus-1.0462) are 14th. The worst team in baseball is the New York Mets, with a rating of 2.3020. The pro franchise that got the least bang for its buck was the St. Louis Rams (4.0687).

Game 131: Pirates @ Brewers, 8:05 p.m. ET

Pirates (70-60): 1. Alex Presley cf, 2. Jose Tabata lf, 3. Travis Snider rf, 4. Garrett Jones rf, 5. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 6. Michael McKenry c, 7. Josh Harrison 2b, 8. Clint Barmes ss, 9. Jeff Karstens rhp (5-3, 3.47)

Brewers (62-68): 1. Nyjer Morgan rf, 2. Rickie Weeks 2b, 3. Ryan Braun lf, 4. Aramis Ramirez 3b, 5. Corey Hart 1b, 6. Jonathan Lucroy c, 7. Carlos Gomez cf, 8. Jean Segura ss, 9. Mark Rogers rhp (2-1, 4.28)


Correia an option again for rotation


Manager Clint Hurdle has sketched out a plan for the rotation in the wake of Erik Bedard’s release, but he wouldn’t share many details this afternoon. Hurdle indicated the four remaining starters could make their next scheduled turns on normal rest (due to the off day Thursday), so there isn’t a need to replace Bedard until the series next week against the Astros. RHP Kevin Correia will be considered for a rotation spot, Hurdle said. What about going outside the organization for someone such as Mark Buehrle or even Roger Clemens?  “Our focus starts in-house,” Hurdle said, mentioning Jeff Locke and Kyle McPherson.

»»» 2B Neil Walker (tightness in lower back) is being examined by another doctor this afternoon and will be a late arrival at PNC Park. Chase d’Arnaud was recalled from Triple-A Indy as insurance in case Walker will be down a few days. D’Arnaud missed about six weeks earlier this season due to a concussion after he was struck in the head by a pitch.

»»» RHP Jeff Karstens (groin) threw his scheduled side session today. It wasn’t a full-length workout, but he said he usually shortens his sessions later in the season to avoid fatigue. “I got my work in,” Karstens said. “We still have to see how I feel (Wednesday).”

»»» James McDonald tossed six scoreless innings Aug. 17 against the Cards, but struggled in his next outing against the Padres. In five career starts against the Cardinals, McDonald is 2-1 with a 2.54 ERA.

Game 129: Cardinals @ Pirates, 7:05 p.m. ET

Cardinals (71-57): 1. Jon Jay cf, 2. Skip Schumaker 2b, 3. Matt Holliday lf, 4. Allen Craig 1b, 5. Carlos Beltran rf, 6. Yadier Molina c, 7. David Freese 3b, 8. Rafael Furcal ss, 9. Jake Westbrook rhp (13-9, 3.67)

Pirates (68-60): 1. Jose Tabata lf, 2. Travis Snider rf, 3. Andrew McCutchen cf, 4. Garrett Jones rf, 5. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 6. Michael McKenry c, 7. Josh Harrison 2b, 8. Clint Barmes ss, 9. James McDonald rhp (11-6, 3.73)


Sanchez works out at third base


Under the watchful eye of manager Clint Hurdle, Gaby Sanchez took grounders at third base today during early infield work. Sanchez has never played third in five seasons in the majors, but he has played there in 148 games in the minors. “We wanted to revisit it and see what his capabilities are,” Hurdle said. “You get reports and you read ‘em, but you don’t want to just box guys in. You want to move ‘em around and put your eyes on them a little bit.”

»»» OF Starling Marte (strained oblique) has not yet started doing any baseball-related activities. There is no timetable for his return. With oblique injuries, it’s usually a matter of weeks, not days. “He’s out there moving around, playing catch, but he’s not swinging a bat yet,” Hurdle said.

»»» RHP Jeff Karstens, who tweaked his groin in his last outing Saturday, remains on track to start a game this weekend in Milwaukee. “There are no red flags,” Hurdle said. “We’ll know more when he throws a bullpen.”

»»» OF Alex Dickerson was named High-A Florida State League player of the year. In 124 games with Bradenton, Dickerson hit .299 (eighth-best in the league) with 12 homers, 88 RBI (second in the league) and 12 steals. He also ranks second in the league with 214 total bases.

»»» The Cardinals are coming off a series win against the Reds, and have three games against the Pirates before going to DC for a four-game set against the Nats. “This is a tough road trip, and I think everyone understands that,” Cards 3B David Freese said. “To get to the playoffs, you have to beat tough teams. This is a good test. This is a statement, either way, how this road trip turns out — for all the teams involved.”

Game 128: Cardinals @ Pirates, 7:05 p.m. ET

Cardinals (70-57): 1. Jon Jay cf, 2. Matt Carpenter 3b, 3. Matt Holliday lf, 4. Allen Craig 1b, 5. Carlos Beltran rf, 6. Yadier Molina c, 7. Skip Schumaker 2b, 8. Rafael Furcal ss, 9. Kyle Lohse rhp (13-2, 2.61)

Pirates (68-59): 1. Jose Tabata lf, 2. Travis Snider rf, 3. Andrew McCutchen cf, 4. Garrett Jones rf, 5. Neil Walker 2b, 6. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 7. Josh Harrison ss, 8. Rod Barajas c, 9. A.J. Burnett rhp (15-4, 3.63)


Tender toe sends Qualls to DL


The Pirates took it also right up to the wire, but they found a way to get lefty reliever Hisonori Takahashi, who arrived last night, onto the active roster before today’s game against the Brewers. Reliever Chad Qualls goes on the 15-day disabled list with discomfort in his left big toe. Really. I’m not making that up. “It’s affected him for a while,” GM Neal Huntington said. “We need 25 healthy guys, it was impacting him, so we made the move. He can help us here in September.”

»»» At Triple-A Indy, C Jose Morales went on the DL, back-dated to Friday, and INF Jeff Larish was activated. … Double-A Altoona beat Richmond, 3-0, Saturday to notch the 1,000th win in franchise history. Jameson Taillon pitches today for the Curve.

Game 127: Brewers @ Pirates, 1:35 p.m. ET

Brewers (58-67): 1. Norichka Aoki rf, 2. Rickie Weeks 2b, 3. Ryan Braun lf, 4. Aramis Ramirez 3b, 5. Corey Hart 1b, 6. Jonathan Lucroy c, 7. Carlos Gomez cf, 8. Jean Segura ss, 9. Mark Rogers rhp (1-1, 5.02)

Pirates (68-58): 1. Travis Snider lf, 2. Neil Walker 2b, 3. Andrew McCutchen cf, 4. Garrett Jones rf, 5. Jeff Clement 1b, 6. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 7. Rod Barajas c, 8. Clint Barmes ss, 8. 9. Erik Bedard lhp (7-13, 4.76)


Jones swings for fences


SAN DIEGO — It is no easy feat to launch a ball over the outfield fence at Petco Park, which is why witnessing the two monster shots last night by Garrett Jones was sort of like seeing a unicorn. “That’s a big-time night,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “Garrett swung the bat very well. He’s been a big part of our offense for a while now.” It was Jones’ sixth career multi-homer game and his second this season. He is batting .331 with 38 RBI in his past 44 games. Against the NL West this year, Jones is hitting .363.

To many hitters, the fence can look like it’s 1,000 miles away at Petco. Jones said he tries not to think about it. “If you get a pitch to hit and put a good swing on it, hopefully, it’s going to go out,” Jones said. “The first one I hit yesterday barely got out. I thought it was going to be out by more than that. This is a park where you really have to get it, you really have to square it up and put a good swing on it. You’re not going to get any cheap ones here.” The game-tying shot Jones hit in the ninth inning traveled 409 feet to left-center. “I put everything I had into that swing,” Jones said. “I had nothing left.”

»»» MLB will release the 2013 schedule sometime in the next few weeks, but it is expected that NL Central teams will face AL West clubs in interleague play next season. According to an MLB official who has seen an advance copy of the schedule, the Pirates’ annual “natural rival” in interleague play is the Detroit Tigers. In the past, the Pirates have lobbied for an annual series against Cleveland, but the Indians already have a rivalry series against Cincinnati.

»»» The Pirates are 3-1 in extra-inning games. They were the last team to lose a game in extras this season.

»»» If you think Andrew McCutchen is coming up empty against the Padres, you’re on to something. He’s batting .173 against San Diego, his lowest average against any team this year.

Game 124: Pirates @ Padres, 6:35 p.m. ET

Pirates (67-56): 1. Jose Tabata lf, 2. Neil Walker 2b, 3. Andrew McCutchen cf, 4. Garrett Jones rf, 5. Gaby Sanchez 1b, 6. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 7. Michael McKenry c, 8. Clint Barmes ss, 8. 9. James McDonald rhp (11-5, 3.61)

Padres (55-70): 1. Everth Cabrera ss, 2. Will Venable rf, 3. Chase Headley 3b, 4. Carlos Quentin lf, 5. Mark Kotsay 1b, 6. Logan Forsythe 2b, 7. Cameron Maybin cf, 8. John Baker c, 9. Andrew Werner lhp (major league debut)


Pitching staff stays in flux


SAN DIEGO — The pitching carousel kept spinning this afternoon, as newbies Justin Wilson and Kyle McPherson were sent back to Triple-A Indy. Daniel McCtuchen was recalled and Chad Qualls was activated from the bereavement list. Judging from your initial reactions on Twitter, I’m guessing those moves are not popular among the hard-core fan base.

McPherson’s quick departure was not a surprise to me. I figured he’d be the most likely candidate to go when Qualls returned today. McPherson is a starter and he needs to get back to Indy to stay on track. I figured Wilson might stay around until Friday, when Jordy Mercer comes back from daddy duty. Unlike, McPherson, Wilson is slotted for relief work the rest of this season — and he almost certainly will be back in Pittsburgh when rosters expand Sept. 1. I’m not sure if management trusts him enough yet to make him eligible for the playoff roster — Wilson still puts too many guys on base — but his skill set makes him a keeper with an expanding role in the big leagues going forward.

But if the front office is confident Wilson can make a difference in October, then it still makes a lot of sense to send him down now. Wilson is still a newbie when it comes to bullpen duty. Let him put in some relief appearances at Indy and experience different situations — enter in the middle of an inning, pitch back-to-back days, start an inning fresh, start with runners in scoring position. The 10-day clock on when he’s allowed to return to the majors starts today. It ends Aug. 31, which — perhaps not concidentally — is the deadline to set playoff rosters. Anyone called up Sept. 1 or later can’t pitch for you in the postseason.

»»» Tonight, A.J. Burnett hopes to become the third 16-game winner in the NL this year, joining Gio Gonzalez and Johnny Cueto. The last Pirate to reach 16-plus victories was Cy Young Award winner Doug Drabek, who went 22-6 in 1990.

»»» Best wishes for a full and speedy recovery to MLBPA head Michael Weiner, who ius under going treatment for a brain tumor. I’ve dealt with Weiner on a couple of occasions, and always found him easy to work with, respectful and patient, no matter how trivial the question.

Game 123: Pirates @ Padres, 10:05 p.m. ET

Pirates (67-55): 1. Jose Tabata lf, 2. Travis Snider rf, 3. Andrew McCutchen cf, 4. Neil Walker 2b, 5. Garrett Jones 1b, 6. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 7. Clint Barmes ss, 8. Rod Barajas c, 9. A.J. Burnett (15-4, 3.54)

Padres (54-70): 1. Everth Cabrera ss, 2. Will Venable rf, 3. Chase Headley 3b, 4. Carlos Quentin lf, 5. Yasmani Grandal c, 6. Yonder Alonso 1b, 7. Alexi Amarista 2b, 8. Cameron Maybin cf, 9. Jason Marquis rhp (6-7, 4.08)


Marte goes on DL, Tabata recalled


ST. LOUIS — Jose Tabata stowed his gear in the Pirates’ clubhouse this morning, as Starling Marte (strained right oblique) went on the 15-day disabled list.

After batting .230 and giving less than an all-out effort in the field and on the basepaths, Tabata was demoted to Indy on July 3. It was not a smooth transition. Tabata didn’t play well — or play hard — after being sent down, and drew criticism from folks in Indy as well as those in the Pirates front office. “Everything’s different down there,” Tabata said. “I’ve been there a (while), so I feel more comfortable there now. I feel good.” Um, sure, but that doesn’t excuse his lousy effort at the start of his time in Indy. “It was difficult a little bit, but it happens,” Tabata said. “You’ve got to be strong. The past is the past. I want to forget the past. I’m here today. New mentality. Stronger.” We’ll see.

»»»  Jordy Mercer was hit on the right wrist by a pitch last night, but X-rays were negative. “It’s just a bruise,” Mercer said this morning. After the game this afternoon, Mercer will fly to Oklahoma for a three-day paternity leave. His wife is scheduled to give birth tonorrow to their first child, a son (who’ll be named Maverick). But manager Clint Hurdle also indicated there’s a chance Mercer could go on the DL. “If he’s not hurt to the degree that he has to go on the DL, he’ll go on the leave,” Hurdle said. Chad Qualls, who’s on bereavement leave, is due back Monday. “As of right now, we expect him to return,” Hurdle said.

»»» Kevin Correia has been available in the bullpen the past two days, although Hurdle did not reveal that fact until this morning. Correia doesn’t seem optimistic about making any more spot starts. “That’s all over with now,” Correia said tersely. Hurdle explained why he did not put Erik Bedard, who Saturday gave up five runs in 4 2/3 innings, into the bullpen. “As we move forward, we’re trying to figure this out as best we can,” Hurdle said, “Bedard didn’t give us what we needed yesterday. But he got two wins at home and his next start will be at home. He’s pitched very well at home. So, as we continue to try to find the best rhyme and reason for our pitching staff, I told (Correia) he’s got to stay focused on pitching because, No. 1, an injury could pop up and, No. 2, we’ve got to find the best we can put out there.” So, there you have it. Bedard won his past two starts at PNC Park, so he (along with his league-leading 13 losses and 4.76 ERA) stays in the rotation.

»»» Jefff Karstens is 3-0 with a 2.52 ERA in four starts this year against NL Central clubs. In his last outing against the Cards on June 30 at Busch Stadium, he worked seven innings and outdueled Lance Lynn in a 7-3 win. 

Game 121: Pirates @ Cardinals, 2:15 p.m. ET

Pirates (66-54): 1. Jose Tabata lf, 2. Josh Harrison 2b, 3. Andrew McCutchen cf, 4. Gaby Sanchez 1b, 5. Travis Snider rf, 6. Michael McKenry c, 7. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 8. Clint Barmes ss, 9. Jeff Karstens (4-3, 3.91)

Cardinals (65-55): 1. Jon Jay cf, 2. Allen Craig 1b, 3. Matt Holliday lf, 4. Carlos Beltran rf, 5. David Freese 3b, 6. Yadier Molina c, 7. Skip Schumaker 2bf, 8. Rafael Furcal ss, 9. Jaime Garcia lhp (3-4, 4.48)


Rotation due to be shuffled


ST. LOUIS — Manager Clint Hurdle has not yet announced the Pirates’ starting pitchers for the series against the San Diego Padres, which begins Monday. That could mean RHP Kevin Correia, who’s made two spot starts as part of the temporary six-man rotation, is headed back to the bullpen. Last week, Hurdle said the Pirates would return to a five-man rotation after the off day Thursday.

»»» Garrett Jones has notched 52 RBI in 59 games as the cleanup hitter. Buster Posey leads the NL with 76 RBI in 104 games when batting fourth, followed by Aramis Ramirez (68), Carlos Beltran (62) and Adam LaRoche and Alfonso Soriano (53 apiece).

»»» Two minor league transactions from a couple of days ago, when I was off: RHP Daniel Cabrera was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks for future considerations. RHP Dallas McPherson was signed as a free agent and assigned to Triple-A Indy.

Game 120: Pirates @ Cardinals, 4:05 p.m. ET

Pirates (66-53): 1. Starling Marte lf, 2. Jordy Mercer 2b, 3. Andrew McCutchen cf, 4. Garrett Jones 1b, 5. Travis Snider rf, 6. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 7. Rod Barajas c, 8. Clint Barmes ss, 9. Erik Bedard lhp (7-12, 4.56)

Cardinals (64-55): 1. Rafael Furcal ss, 2. Matt Carpenter rf, 3. Matt Holliday lf, 4. Allen Craig 1b, 5. David Freese 3b, 6. Yadier Molina c, 7. Shane Robinson cf, 8. Ryan Jackson 2b, 9. Lance Lynn rhp (13-5, 3.65)


Get outta tahn!


ST. LOUIS — After a disastrous 4-7 homestand, is it good for the Pirates to get away from PNC Park? “I don’t get caught up in all that,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “You get a schedule at the start of the season and that’s what I pay attention to. It’s our turn to play these guys. We weren’t playing well at home, so that part of it, yeah, I’m good to get out of town. You get right back in the heat of the NL Central against a very good ballclub. It will be a similar situation to what we had in Cincinnati a few weeks ago. It’s great experience against a formidable foe. That’s what I pay attention to. I try to live in the moment of what we’re doing today, and that’s playing the Cardinals.”

»»» 2B Neil Walker played catch briefly today before the Pirates took extra infield drills, but he did not take any grounders or swing a bat. There still is significant swelling around his injured right pinky finger. “We’re still trying to figure out what he’s capable of doing,” Hurdle said. “I’m not saying he’s ahead of (schedule), but he’s been very aggressive with his efforts to figure out what he can and cannot do.”

Game 119: Pirates @ Cardinals, 8:15 p.m. ET

Pirates (65-53): 1. Starling Marte lf, 2. Travis Snider rf, 3. Andrew McCutchen cf, 4. Garrett Jones 1b, 5.Michael McKenry c, 6. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 7. Clint Barmes ss, 8. Jordy Mercer 2b, 9. James McDonald rhp (10-5, 3.77)

Cardinals (64-54): 1. Jon Jay cf, 2. Allen Craig 1b, 3. Matt Holliday lf, 4. Carlos Beltran rf, 5. David Freese 3b, 6. Daniel Descalso 2b, 7. Tony Cruz c, 8. Rafael Furcal ss, 9. Jake Westbrook rhp (12-8, 3.62)


Grilli: Fans can pump it up


Jason Grilli took pains to emphasize — twice — that this is NOT intended as a criticism of Pirates fans. He means it as a complement. “They’re doing great,” Grilli told me last night after the 5-4 loss against the Dodgers. “But I know they can do even better. This is the time to do it.”

Grilli entered the game in the ninth inning, when the Dodgers had a runner at third base and one out. He struck out Mark Ellis, then got Matt Kemp to whiff on a wicked, 83 mph slider on the inside part of the zone. “I saw Kemp was crowding the plate and I figured he’d be sitting on the fastball,” Grilli said. As Grilli readied to throw his final pitch to Kemp, the volume from the 24,670 fans inside PNC Park reached a crescendo. Grilli soaked it up. “We definitely feed off the fans,” Grilli said. “We need that. And now, every game is so important — every pitch can be so important — so we need more from them.”

»»» I’ve heard whispers that the grounds crew at PNC Park hopes to mow a “Zoltan Z” into the centerfield grass to welcome the team home from its upcoming road trip to St. Louis and San Diego. Also, as we move to within 1 1/2 months left in the season, look for the Pirates to announce (probably next week) information about ordering playoff tickets.

»»» Kevin Correia’s seven-game winning streak ties him with David Price for the longest active string in the majors.


»»» In his first 12 games this month, Garrett Jones has gone 15 for 38 (.385), including four doubles, a triple, a homer, eight RBI. He has six multi-hit games in that span. Since his batting average dropped to .214 on May 26, Jones has hit .313 (67 for 214) with 13 homers and 45 RBI.


Game 116: Dodgers @ Pirates, 7:05 p.m. ET

Dodgers (63-53): 1. Shane Victorino lf, 2. Juan Uribe, 3b. Matt Kemp cf, 4. Andre Ethier rf, 5. Hanley Ramirez ss, 6. James Loney 1b, 7. Luis Cruz 2b, 8. A.J. Ellis c, 9. Chad Billingsley rhp (8-9, 3.84)



Pirates (64-51): 1. Starling Marte lf, 2. Travis Snider rf, 3. Andrew McCutchen cf, 4. Garrett Jones 1b, 5. Neil Walker 2b, 6. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 7. Rod Barajas c, 8. Clint Barmes ss, 9. Kevin Correia rhp (9-6, 4.49)