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Pirates callups help weary bullpen

| Monday, Aug. 20, 2012, 9:00 p.m.
Christopher Horner
Catcher Michael McKenry, shown breaking his bat during the third inning against Arizona earlier this month, caught all 19 innings of the Pirates' 6-3 win at St. Louis on Sunday, but wasn't fatigued. . (Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review)

SAN DIEGO -- Right-hander Kyle McPherson and LHP Justin Wilson, along with every other pitcher at Triple-A Indianapolis, were well aware the Pirates played a 19-inning game Sunday. They all wondered who would be called up to bolster the Pirates' weary bullpen.

“Everybody was chomping at the bit and spreading the word,” McPherson said. “Everybody's talking about who's available (to pitch), who's not and blah blah blah. It's one of those things that you think about but you really can't worry about because it's out of your hands.”

The timing was right for McPherson and Wilson, who were promoted before the game Monday at San Diego. It's both players' first trip to the majors.

“There were a couple other guys who were in consideration, but they'd pitched recently,” assistant GM Kyle Stark said. “We needed two guys who could give us some length. Even though Kyle hasn't been at Triple-A very long (two starts), we think he can handle this. With Justin, guys just don't hit him.”

Wilson went 9-6 with a 3.84 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP in 25 starts with Indy. He will go back to the minors once the Pirates' bullpen is back at full strength, but will be recalled when rosters expand Sept. 1.

“It's about consistency,” said Wilson, who moved out of Indy's rotation to prep for a bullpen role with the Pirates. “I'm getting ahead of guys and sticking with that. I've improved on that.”

• INF Jordy Mercer is expected back Friday from paternity leave. Monday, Mercer's wife, Kasey, gave birth to their first child, a son. Maverick Lee Mercer checked in a 7 pounds, 11 ounces. “That's a name!” manager Clint Hurdle said. “Sounds like a riverboat gambler.”

• Reliever Juan Cruz was designated for assignment. Cruz went 1-1 with a 2.78 ERA and a 1.63 WHIP in 43 games, which was 14 games shy of his career high. In six appearances this month after coming off the disabled list, Cruz had a 3.86 ERA and allowed eight baserunners in 4 23 innings. It's unlikely the Pirates will try to keep Cruz if he clears waivers. “At this point, we've got some young guys who have passed him,” Hurdle said.

• Michael McKenry caught all 19 innings Sunday and also was behind the plate for all 19 innings last year during that infamous game in Atlanta. “Last year was such an emotional game, a tough one to take,” McKenry said. “This year, with us getting the win, I feel great. I feel like it was a normal (nine-inning) game. I'm not overly sore.” McKenry said he caught both ends of a doubleheader when he was in high school, but had never caught so many innings straight as a pro until these two games with the Pirates.

• The Pirates have two open spots on their 40-man roster, which probably will be filled when the Pirates are set to make their September callups.

• Relievers Chris Resop and Jared Hughes were not available Monday to avoid being overworked. Hurdle said there's a chance they both will be out of action Tuesday, as well.

• Reliever Chad Qualls, who's on bereavement leave, is expected to rejoin the team Tuesday. The Pirates will have to make a corresponding roster move when Qualls arrives.

- Rob Biertempfel

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