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Pirates notebook: No more triples for Chris Stewart

| Sunday, June 18, 2017, 7:06 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates catcher Chris Stewart is helped from the field by trainer Ben Potenziano after hitting a two-run triple during the seventh inning against the Diamondbacks Monday, May 29, 2017, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates catchers Elias Diaz and Francisco Cervelli pass by one another during a game against the Cubs Sunday, June 18, 2017, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
The Cubs' Javier Baez scores past Pirates catcher Elias Diaz during the fourth inning Sunday, June 18, 2017, at PNC Park.

Updated 14 hours ago

Backup catcher Chris Stewart was activated from the disabled list Sunday. The Pirates are taking drastic measures to ensure there's not a return trip.

“We've shut down the triples. Eliminated (them),” Stewart said before Sunday's home loss to the Chicago Cubs.

“I'm aware that there's going to be a big stop sign out there at second base, so I need to stay there from now on.”

Stewart strained his left hamstring while running out his second career May 29. The 35-year-old was on the disabled list since the injury.

For 19 days, Stewart could hit, catch and throw but running was a problem.

“He's actually the first player that I think I have ever had that triples are off the board,” manager Clint Hurdle said.

Stewart did not play Sunday.

Two is better than three

Hurdle acknowledged the Pirates “aren't built” to carry three catchers on the active roster. But they are, even after Jacob Stallings' demotion to Triple-A Indianapolis to make room for Stewart.

“It won't be (that way for) a long period of time,” Hurdle said, “unless something drastic happens and something changes.”

Put simply, rookie Elias Diaz is too hot to demote. Diaz had one of the Pirates' three hits Sunday and reached base in 10 of his 11 starts (.375) with 10 RBIs. He also has thrown out two base stealers in five attempts. He threw out another runner Sunday, nailing Javier Baez at second when a Jameson Taillon pitch got away from him.

“It's awful hard to sit down Diaz right now, based on his performance,” Hurdle said.

But it also would be difficult to remove Stewart from the roster (it would require a DFA and expose him to waivers), particularly when starter Francisco Cervelli has been injury-prone.

Diaz, 26, and in his eighth season in the organization, has been ranked one of the Pirates' top 10 prospects during each of the past two seasons by Baseball America.

“Sometimes the best development is done at the major-league level, even if it's not in a regular's role,” general manager Neal Huntington said. “That's a decision we're going to have to make with Diaz.”

Rivero unavailable; Nicasio, too?

It turned out, Hurdle was kidding. But with how well Felipe Rivero has pitched, could anyone have blamed him if he was serious?

Speaking before Sunday's game, Hurdle said Felipe Rivero wouldn't be at PNC Park on Sunday because he was sent to Milwaukee a day early.

“To make sure I don't pitch him,” Hurdle deadpanned. “Just to play it safe. You look down at that guy, and you're thinking, ‘Ehhhhhhh?' ”

Rivero pitched Friday and Saturday, going 1 23 innings the latter evening — 10 batters and 37 pitches in all. Twice early in the season, Rivero worked three consecutive days. One of those stretches included a total of 34 pitches.

Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said, “I would not think we are gonna make (Rivero pitching multiple innings) a habit.

“We need to respect that Clint has done a tremendous job over the years of protecting our pitchers. Even when they have said they can pitch, we will keep them down that day because we have got the longer-term vision in mind for them.”

The availability of Juan Nicasio is in question. The righthander was shut down Saturday after he experienced “fatigue” Friday night, and he was not used Sunday.

Plan for Marte

With about a month remaining in Starling Marte's 80-game suspension, the Pirates were formulating a plan on getting him MLB-ready quickly.

Marte has been taking part in extended spring training games at Pirate City in Bradenton. But with the rookie-level Gulf Coast League Bradenton Pirates set to begin play next week, the number of players available for extended spring games will diminish significantly.

Marte cannot play in a minor league game until 15 days remain in his suspension.

“Fortunately, we will have enough players in extended spring training that we will be able to put him in (simulated game) situations to keep him sharp as we can,” Huntington said. “Fifteen days from his date of reinstatement, we can get him out on a rehab assignment, and we are working through exactly when and how and what that script will be. But I imagine we will get him in against upper-level competition as long and quickly as we can and get him ready to come back when he's reinstated.”

Happ-y times

Mt. Lebanon graduate Ian Happ on Sunday hit his eighth home run in only 103 Major League at-bats. It capped a series at PNC Park in which he reached base five times with three extra-base hits and two runs.

“Awesome weekend,” said Happ, a 2015 first-round pick out of the University of Cincinnati. “Just special, family being here, friends being here. Can't say enough about the support, and to come out of here winning the series and playing good baseball is great.”

Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at cadamski@tribweb.com or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.

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