Pirates notebook: Starting rotation due to be reshuffled

Rob Biertempfel
| Wednesday, May 1, 2013, 6:54 p.m.

MILWAUKEE — The Pirates' starting rotation is due for a makeover.

Having off days Thursday and Monday gives manager Clint Hurdle an opportunity to shuffle the order of his starting pitchers. And there will be two new faces in the rotation within a fortnight as left-hander Francisco Liriano and right-hander Charlie Morton return from injury rehabs.

“We've got some options in front of us,” Hurdle said Wednesday.

Hurdle said Liriano (broken right arm) is expected to join the Pirates around May 11, and Morton (elbow surgery) likely will be activated around May 14. Both pitchers are on rehab stints with Triple-A Indianapolis.

With the two off days, the Pirates won't need a No. 5 starter until the May 9-12 series in New York against the Mets. That means Jeanmar Gomez, who made a spot start Wednesday against the Milwaukee Brewers, goes back to a long-relief role.

When Morton is ready to return, Jeff Locke or James McDonald will have to be ejected from the rotation.

Locke has pitched well lately — he was a candidate for the National League Player of the Week award, which went to catcher Russell Martin — while McDonald continues to struggle. However, Locke has a minor league option remaining, while McDonald is out of options.

Even though his performance has been spotty, there is practically zero chance McDonald would clear waivers so he could be demoted to Indy.

“There it is; it's laid out,” Hurdle said. “The best guys are going to pitch. We'll have a very interesting decision to make sooner than later.”

Staff ace A.J. Burnett isn't going anywhere. Also, the right-hander prefers to stay on a five-day routine, so he won't be affected if the rotation order is revamped. Burnett will start Friday against the Washington Nationals, with his next turn May 8 against the Seattle Mariners.

Tabata pulls hamstring

Jose Tabata will have an MRI on Thursday to determine the severity of the injury to his left hamstring.

Tabata left Wednesday's game in the eighth inning when he came up lame after sliding into second base.

“I felt something grab in there (leg) when I tried to get up,” Tabata said. “I don't think it's very, very serious, but ... we'll see how I feel (Thursday).”

In 2011, Tabata missed about seven weeks because of a strained right hamstring and right quad.

Team employee apologizes

Pirates director of baseball communications Jim Trdinich offered a mea culpa Wednesday for a comment about the Brewers he posted Tuesday night on his personal Facebook page.

In his post, Trdinich was critical of Miller Park and suggested the Brewers used some sort of “illegal” advantage against the Pirates. The Brewers won the first two games of a three-game series this week by a combined score of 22-12. The Pirates won Wednesday, 6-4, to snap a nine-game losing streak against Milwaukee.

“I apologize to the Brewers and Pirates organizations as well as everyone else connected with the clubs who I offended with my irresponsible comments,” Trdinich said. “They were made on my personal Facebook page, and in no way, shape or form do they represent the views of the Pirates organization. I love the Pirates and let those emotions get the best of me.”

The post was later removed.

The big whiff

Burnett racked up 48 strikeouts last month. According to Elias Sports Bureau, he is the first Pirates pitcher to lead the NL in strikeouts in April since Bob Friend had 14 in 1956.

Fourteen? In a month? Yep.

The Pirates opened the '56 season April 17 and played 11 games (including a doubleheader) that month. Behind Friend were Sam Jones of the Cubs and Robin Roberts of the Phillies, who had 13 strikeouts apiece.

Planet of the aches

Hurdle indicated there's a good chance second baseman Neil Walker (cut on right hand) will go on the disabled list if he cannot swing a bat by Friday. The move could be back-dated to April 27, the day Walker was spiked by Cardinals shortstop Pete Kuzma. ... Outfielder Travis Snider (left oblique) was not in the starting lineup Wednesday for the fifth game in a row, but he delivered a pinch-hit single in the eighth inning. Hurdle plans to start Snider on Saturday against Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg. ... Right-hander Jeff Karstens (shoulder) will throw a simulated game Friday at PNC Park.

Check the schedule

The April 16 game against the St. Louis Cardinals that was rained out will be made up July 30 as part of a doubleheader at PNC Park. The first game will begin at 4:05 p.m. ... The Pirates will play 18 of their 28 games in May at PNC Park.

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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