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Pirates' Hurdle, Huntington weigh September call-ups

| Saturday, Aug. 18, 2012, 6:44 p.m.
Christopher Horner
Pirates left-hander reliever Doug Slaten is being considered for a September call-up. Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review

ST. LOUIS — Manager Clint Hurdle and general manager Neal Huntington are working through a list of call-ups for when major league rosters expand Sept. 1.

At least one left-handed pitcher — Justin Wilson or Doug Slaten are top candidates — will be added. Another catcher, such as versatile Eric Fryer or former first-rounder Tony Sanchez, also is a given.

“Where we go from there ... it's a delicate balance,” said Huntington, mindful that Triple-A Indianapolis likely is playoff-bound.

“I've been with another organization where we raided the Triple-A team as it was headed to the postseason. The guys came up and didn't play very much, and that didn't go over very well on many fronts,” Huntington said. “I've been with an organization where we didn't bring up many guys, and it seemed like we needed a different guy every night than the ones we brought up. So it's a challenge.

“You want to be respectful of what Indianapolis is doing, but we want to put ourselves in a position to win here in Pittsburgh.”

Adding a lot of September call-ups also can be an expensive proposition for a ballclub.

“In my rookie year, if you got a call-up, you made $5,000 or $6,000 (in September),” said Hurdle, who made his big league debut in 1977.

“Now you're talking about making $75,000. So if you call up 10 guys, you're picking up $750,000 in salary and everything that goes with it.”

Pitching change

Hurdle has not yet announced his starting pitchers for the series against the San Diego Padres, which begins Monday. That could mean Kevin Correia, who has made two spot starts as part of the temporary six-man rotation, is headed back to the bullpen. Last week, Hurdle said the Pirates would return to a five-man rotation after the off day Thursday.

Next step for Taillon

After making 23 starts for High-A Bradenton, Jameson Taillon will finish this season with Double-A Altoona. The Pirates will continue to take a careful approach with the right-hander's development.

“Our (coaches) are watching every start, looking for signs of fatigue,” Huntington said.

“Do they see signs of a guy who will go up and have success, or will he go up and alter (his mechanics)? We're watching closely.”

Taillon worked only five innings in each of his past three outings — not because he was pitching poorly; Taillon allowed a total of three runs in those games — but because of his pitch-count limit.

There are two reasons for the limit: to protect an arm from injury and to teach pitch efficiency.

“If Jameson wants to get into the seventh inning, he needs to become more efficient and get first-pitch outs, get a groundball out,” Huntington said. “A pitch count naturally allows a guy to build innings.”

At Bradenton, Taillon went 6-8 with a 3.82 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP.

“His development's been very good,” Huntington said.

“His surface ERA may not be what a stud prospect should do, but he's getting groundballs, getting strikeouts and throwing the ball over the plate. We haven't played the best defense behind him. There are a lot of positive indicators for Jameson, and we've pleased with his development.”

Injury update

X-rays of infielder Jordy Mercer's right wrist were negative Saturday after he was hit by a pitch in the ninth inning. “I think it's more (an injury to) the tendon than the bone,” Mercer said. “It hit me right on it and hurt really bad.”

Left fielder Starling Marte left the game Saturday in the sixth inning after feeling discomfort in his lower right side, near his waist. Marte said he felt pain as he ran to home plate. The status of both players will be updated Sunday.

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com 412-320-7811.

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