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Pirates notebook: Cole's stay could end with Burnett's return

| Sunday, June 23, 2013, 5:06 p.m.
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Pirates starter Gerrit Cole wipes his brow in the seventh inning against the Angels on Friday, June 21, 2013 at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, Calif.

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Rookie Gerrit Cole is in the Pirates' starting rotation, and Jeanmar Gomez is ready rejoin it. But there's a good chance neither right-hander will be there in another week or two.

Gomez (strained forearm) will come off the disabled list Wednesday and start against the Seattle Mariners. The Pirates are off Thursday, so Cole's next start will be pushed back to Friday at PNC Park against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Manager Clint Hurdle did not reveal any more about the rotation beyond that. But it is likely Gomez and Cole will depart the rotation when Wandy Rodriguez and A.J. Burnett are ready to return.

In a rehab start Sunday with Triple-A Indianapolis, Rodriguez (forearm tightness) threw 73 pitches in four innings, allowed one run on four hits, walked one and struck out five. The lefty probably won't need another outing before coming off the DL.

“It's not necessary for him to get to 100 pitches (in the rehab stint) because he's already been there this season,” general manager Neal Huntington said Sunday on his weekly radio show.

Rodriguez's return would push Gomez back into long relief.

Burnett (strained right calf) is eligible to come off the DL on Monday but hasn't thrown off a mound yet. When Burnett is ready, the easiest move would be to send Cole back to Indy.

“There's a business component to it, as far as keeping our depth,” Huntington said. “Gerrit's probably got the best stuff of anybody in the rotation ... (and) he's made three impressive outings. But the challenge is, if we need another starter (due to injury) later, it may make sense to send Gerrit back so we have a sixth quality starter.”

The only pitchers in the rotation who still have minor league options are Cole and Jeff Locke.

Huntington stressed that the possibility of Cole gaining Super Two status — which would give him an extra year of salary arbitration, based on how much playing time he accrues — is not a factor in the decision.

Huntington also must decide what to do with righty James McDonald (shoulder discomfort) by Wednesday, when his rehab assignment expires. He would have to clear waivers in order to be sent to the minors. A trade also is a possibility.

Tony the Bat

Tony Sanchez hit a ground-rule double in his first career at-bat Sunday, rocking a 2-1 pitch from Angels right-hander Joe Blanton. The ball got stuck in the out-of-town scoreboard on the right-field wall.

The unusual circumstance probably cost Sanchez an RBI. Neil Walker was on first base and was hustling with two outs. Walker had to return to third base and was stranded when Michael McKenry flew out to end the inning.

“I walked up to the plate and my legs started shaking uncontrollably,” Sanchez said. “I asked (catcher Chris) Iannetta, ‘Dude, what do I do?' He said, ‘Just breathe,' so I stepped out of the box. Blanton threw me a ball I could handle.”

When he was drafted out of Boston College, Sanchez had a reputation as a solid defensive player with shortcomings at the plate.

“Not many people would've had him making his big league debut as the designated hitter,” Huntington said.

Still, Sanchez has hit well — .306 with nine homers and 35 RBI — this year at Indy.

“We called him up to swing the bat,” Hurdle said. “So I don't find it ironic at all that he's our DH.”

They're No. 1

When Sanchez was called up Friday, it gave the Pirates eight former first-round draft picks on their active roster.

Sanchez was the Pirates' top selection in 2009. The others are Jason Grilli (Giants, 1997), Walker (Pirates, 2004) Andrew McCutchen (Pirates, 2005), Bryan Morris (Dodgers, 2006), Travis Snider (Blue Jays, 2006), Pedro Alvarez (Pirates, 2008) and Cole (Pirates, 2011).

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

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