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Pirates notebook: Time running short for Francisco Cervelli return

Rob Biertempfel
| Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017, 2:30 p.m.
Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli takes batting practice before a game against the Reds Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli takes batting practice before a game against the Reds Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017, at PNC Park.

CINCINNATI — Francisco Cervelli wants to get back on the field before the end of the season. Time is running short.

“We will sit down probably (on Monday) and have a conversation and find out exactly where we are and what we would need to do next if we were to try to push it and find some game time,” manager Clint Hurdle said Sunday.

Cervelli (left quad irritation) has been on the disabled list since Aug. 26.

“There may come a point where we say, ‘OK, we're not going to have enough time for it to make sense. Let's get ready for the offseason and for 2018,' ” general manager Neal Huntington said. “We're not there yet, but ... the calendar is not our friend right now.”

Pitching plans

Hurdle revealed Jameson Taillon (Monday), Trevor Williams (Tuesday) and Steven Brault (Wednesday) will start in the three-game series against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Brault replaces right-hander Chad Kuhl, who will skip a start. Taillon will pitch for the first time since Sept. 7, and Williams has not started since Sept. 8.

Ivan Nova is scheduled to start Friday against the St. Louis Cardinals but could be scratched if his sore calf acts up again.

“We don't want to push (Nova),” Huntington said. “If he's able to go, great. If there is any question whatsoever, we'll talk about that. We want to make sure we finish the season strong, finish the season healthy and put ourselves in position to have a good offseason.”

Huntington said Brault got the nod for Wednesday's game because he's made fewer starts this season than Tyler Glasnow. If Nova cannot go Friday, Glasnow will fill in.

“If Ivan looks like he's going to be able to go, then the next touch for Glas might be out of the pen,” Huntington said. “That doesn't mean we're turning him into a reliever. It just means the next touch for him might be out of the pen. We'll see how the rotation falls together the final part of the season.”

Adieu, Drew

Pitcher Drew Hutchison technically is still on Triple-A Indianapolis' roster after passing through waivers last week, but he almost certainly won't be back next year.

Hutchison can become a minor league free agent after the World Series, so management saw no need to make him a September call-up.

“We just didn't feel there was going to be quality innings here for him,” Huntington said. “And, knowing we were probably moving on in the offseason, we wanted to make sure we gave innings to the guys who are either going to be here next year or who have been contributors in some way to this year's club.”

Riding out the storm

Hurricane Irma delayed the start of Instructional League by about a week, Huntington said. LECOM Park lost power but suffered minimal damage.

The clubhouses at Pirate City — which are, essentially, bunkers with no windows — were used as a staging point by first responders.

Around the horn

Huntington said shortstop Cole Tucker (fractured hand) might be healed in time to play before the Arizona Fall League season. ... No decision has been made on whether Austin Meadows (oblique) will play winter ball. ... Middle infielder Gift Ngoepe, 27, was passed over for a call-up, even though Josh Harrison and Adam Frazier were on the disabled list at the start of this month. “Gift would come up as a premium defender,” Huntington said. “Our challenge is, we didn't see the number of at-bats available for him.” Translation: Ngoepe's quiet bat is forcing him out of the team's long-term plans. He hit .220 at Indy and .222 in 28 games with the Pirates.

Spoiler alert

On Monday, the Pirates will open their final homestand, an eight-game stretch that includes sets against the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals. Those two clubs still have hopes of sneaking past the Chicago Cubs to win the NL Central or nabbing a wild-card bid.

“Playing spoiler is really fun,” Brault said after Monday's 7-0 win against the Brewers. “I would rather be playing contender. No matter who's (the opponent), we just want to win, all the time, no matter what. But, they're in contention, so it's fun to play spoiler and rain on their parade a little bit.”

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

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