By Rob Biertempfel
This afternoon, Gerrit Cole will make his 50th start at PNC Park. Cole ranks third with 22 wins here since the ballpark opened in 2001. He trails Paul Maholm (36 wins at PNC Park) and Zach Duke (33). At home, Cole has put up a 3.32 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP. Over 436 road starts, he has a 3.23 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP. The Pirates have gone 31-18 in his previous home starts.
“His ability to recall pitches, sequences and reasons why after a game is as good as anybody I’ve come across in all the years I’ve been involved in ball,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “It jumps out at you. I freshen up every starter, either every day or two days after his start, ask them for some ups and for some points they found challenging. His abiltiy to recall is second to none.”
>>> David Freese is out of the lineup for the second day in a row after taking a hopper off his collarbone on Friday. However, Hurdle said Freese is available off the bench today.
>>> The battery of Cole and Chris Stewart has been successful in the past, and they are reunited today. However, Hurdle said that ESP between the two “has nothing to do whatsoever” with why Stewart’s making his first start of the season today. “(Francisco) Cervelli has been working his way back from his foot challenges and he’s in a good place. A day game after a night game, that’s the sole reason for (Stewart’s start).”
>>> Trevor Williams is the lone member of the bullpen who hasn’t yet gotten into a game. Williams has done work on the side to stay sharp and was warming up during last night’s game.
>>> As of 11 a.m., Hurdle said it had not yet been determined whether Daniel Hudson and/or Tony Watson will be available out of the pen today after woking in back-to-back games.
>>> A win today would give the Pirates their first three-game sweep of the Braves in Pittsburgh since April 29-May 1, 1994.
>>> RHP Luis Heredia will continue to be developed as a reliever, according to farm director Larry Broadway, but has not yet been assigned to a minor league team and remains in extended spring training. Heredia was an intriguing prospect — a 16-year-old with a 92 mph fastball — when the Pirates signed him in 2010 for a $2.6 million. At the time, it was the biggest bonus the club had ever given an international amateur. Heredia has batted poor conditioning, shoulder soreness and general inconsistency/ineffectiveness with his pitches. Last season, he worked as a closer with High-A Bradenton — he was pretty good for about the first half of the year, then crashed in the second half. He’ll be a free agent after this season and almost certainly will not be back with the Pirates.
>>> UPDATE 1:52 P.M. — Some news and notes from the weekly presser with GM Neal Huntington:
– Nick Kingham sprained his ankle near the end of spring training. After the ankle has healed, it will take a while for Kingham to be built up before he’s ready to join the rotation at Triple-A Indianapolis. “The challenge with Nick is that he hadn’t gotten to five innings or 90 pitches when he rolled the ankle, so there is some build-up time,” general manager Neal Huntington said. “So, it’s going to be every bit of April and maybe even some of May before we get him out and get him going.”
– David Freese will get the bulk of the playing time at third base during Jung Ho Kang’s absence. Josh Harrison and Adam Frazier also will get some time at that spot. “We feel very comfortable David can (take) a huge part of the workload over there,” Huntington said. “It’s as much about how much Clint (Hurdle) uses and feels about the matchups with Adam, Josh and David.
– The Pirates are “still working through” getting a valid passport for Gregory Polanco, Huntington said. The issue prevented Polanco from traveling to Montreal for the two preseason exhibition games agains the Toronto Blue Jays. The Pirates will play an interleague series in Toronto in mid-August. Huntington said he expects Polanco’s situation will be resolved by then.
– There have been a few shaky defensive plays with the new outfield alignment of Polanco in left, Startling Marte in center and Andrew McCutchen in right. Huntington is not concerned it’s anything that will linger. “We’re showing the typical adjustment period coming north (from spring training),” Huntington said. “We play very few night games in spring training and when we do the lights are completely different.” The outfielders also might be bothered by the LED lights on the new videoboard in right field. “The LED lights might have an impact, as they are a different look than our guys are used to,” Huntington said. “We’ve had a few challenges, but we feel these guys are going to adjust quickly.”
>>> You want links? I’ve got links:
Pirates 6, Braves 4: In which Chad Kuhl is bailed out by Gregory Polanco’s four hits and the Braves’ sloppiness
Notebook: Freese update and thoughts on lineup construction
>>> Sunday’s game: Braves at Pirates, 1:35 p.m., PNC Park. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM
Braves (1-4): Ender Inciarte 8, Dansby Swanson 6, Freddie Freeman 3, Adonis Garcia 5, Nick Markakis 9, Brandon Phillips 4, Tyler Flowers 2, Jace Peterson, RHP Julio Teheran (0-0, 0.00 ERA)
Pirates (2-2): Adam Frazier 5, Starling Marte 8, Andrew McCutchen 9, Gregory Polanco 7, Josh Bell 3, Jordy Mercer 6, Phil Gosselin 4, Chris Stewart 2, RHP Gerrit Cole (0-1, 9.00 ERA)
Umpires: HP: Phil Cuzzi, 1B: Vic Carapazza, 2B: Mark Ripperger, 3B: Tom Hallion.
>>> Monday’s game: Reds at Pirates, 7:05 p.m., PNC Park. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM.
Reds: LHP Brandon Finnegan (1-0, 0.00)
Pirates: RHP Tyler Glasnow (2017 debut)
>>> Tuesday’s game: Reds at Pirates, 7:05 p.m., PNC Park. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM.
Reds: RHP Rookie Davis (0-0, 12.00)
Pirates: RHP Jameson Taillon (0-0, 0.00)
>>> Wednesday’s game: Reds at Pirates, 7:05 p.m., PNC Park. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM.
Reds: LHP Amir Garrett (1-0, 0.00)
Pirates: RHP Ivan Nova (1-0, 0.00)
Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.