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Pirates notebook: Reliever George Kontos proving to be savvy pickup

Rob Biertempfel
| Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, 5:57 p.m.
Pirates reliever George Kontos delivers during the eighth inning against the Tigers Monday, Aug. 7, 2017, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates reliever George Kontos delivers during the eighth inning against the Tigers Monday, Aug. 7, 2017, at PNC Park.

TORONTO — At the pivotal juncture of Friday's game against the Toronto Blue Jays, the Pirates called on a reliever who had been with them for just six days.

With Pirates clinging to two-run lead in the seventh inning, the Blue Jays put runners on the corners with none out. George Kontos replaced starter Jameson Taillon.

“He's been in big situations before,” acting manager Tom Prince said of Kontos, who won two World Series rings over seven seasons with the San Francisco Giants. “His experience is invaluable.”

The Pirates claimed Kontos off waivers Aug. 5.

“A quality pickup,” said Prince, who is managing the Pirates while Clint Hurdle attends Don Baylor's funeral in Texas.

Kontos faced the Blue Jays' Nos. 8, 9 and 1 batters. The first two, Kevin Pillar and Rob Refsnyder, were minor threats. The third was former American League home run champ Jose Bautista.

Since 2015, Kontos has inherited 118 runners, the fifth most in the majors.

“The last time this season I inherited runners, it didn't go so well,” Kontos said. “That was in the back of my mind.”

On July 31, Kontos entered a game against the Oakland A's with the bases loaded and one out. Marcus Semien hit a grand slam, which saddled Kontos with his fifth blown save.

This time, even a fly ball would have gotten the Blue Jays a run and turned up the heat on the Pirates. Kontos got a popup, a strikeout and a grounder and got out of the inning unscathed.

“I've always tried to attack hitters,” Kontos said. “I have some movement in the zone and I'm able to locate pitches. I'm very fortunate that guys are swinging at the stuff that I'm throwing.”

It was Kontos' third outing since joining the Pirates. He has retired all nine batters on a total of 24 pitches.

Sometimes, it can be a dice roll to put a new arrival, especially a waiver claim, into a high-leverage situation. Kontos appreciates the show of faith he has gotten from the coaching staff.

“I've been very lucky in my career that I've spent a lot of time with the same team and I've been put in a lot of different situations,” he said. “I've had success in the playoffs and all that. That's molded me into the pitcher that I am today.

“Nothing really fazes me. I understand that sometimes I'm going to have good days, and there are going to be bad days as well. I leave it all on the field and, hopefully, there are more good days than bad.”

McCutchen sits

Andrew McCutchen said he went through a normal pregame routine on Saturday morning. He left Friday's game after feeling what he described as “a cramp” in his knee.

“I went through everything and felt fine,” McCutchen said.

McCutchen did not play on Saturday. Prince said he never thought of using McCutchen, even when right fielder Gregory Polanco left the game with a sore hamstring.

“I was ready to go the whole game,” McCutchen said. “I was ready. But, at same time, don't need to make it worse. Wanted to be safe, I guess. I'm not sure about (Sunday). Hopefully, I'll be in the lineup.”

According to McCutchen, the medical staff did not give him an diagnosis for what caused his knee discomfort on Friday.

“Age, I guess,” McCutchen joked.

Gosselin gone

Infielder Phil Gosselin was claimed off waivers by the Texas Rangers, who optioned him to Triple-A Round Rock.

Gosselin appeared in 28 games with the Pirates and hit .150 with a .365 OPS. The Pirates acquired him in February from the Arizona Diamondbacks for minor league pitcher Frank Duncan, who is 8-8 with a 6.94 ERA in 22 games (21 starts) at Triple-A Reno.

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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