Pirates notebook: Mazzaro thriving in bullpen role

Pirates reliever Vin Mazzaro pitches during the third inning against the Brewers on Sunday, June 30, 2013, at PNC Park.
Pirates reliever Vin Mazzaro pitches during the third inning against the Brewers on Sunday, June 30, 2013, at PNC Park.
Photo by Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
| Tuesday, July 2, 2013, 7:36 p.m.

The Pirates' bullpen has been wowing everyone lately, especially the opposition.

“I feel like they all throw 110 (mph),” Milwaukee outfielder Logan Schaefer said Sunday after the Brewers went scoreless over the final 12 innings against six relievers in the Pirates' 14-inning, 2-1 win at PNC Park.

“They've all got good stuff. They know what they're doing, they locate for the most part and in a game like this, it's essential to get strikes early. They're pretty effective at getting ahead in counts, and I think that's big on their end. They're pretty good.”

Closer Jason Grilli and setup man Mark Melancon have been getting most of the attention, but everyone has pitched well. On Sunday, Tony Watson threw three perfect innings to get the win.

Vin Mazzaro did even better. The 26-year-old right-hander was perfect over five innings after a two-hour, 20-minute rain delay knocked starter Charlie Morton out after just two innings.

“It was as efficient a five innings as I've seen pitched. Ever,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said, citing Mazzaro's scant 44 pitches and 10 of 15 outs recorded on three pitches or fewer.

Mazzaro is 4-2 with a 2.52 ERA. Not bad for a converted starter who was 15-22 with a 5.22 ERA during four seasons with the A's and Royals, and began the 2013 season in Indianapolis as a non-roster player. He came to the Pirates in what appeared to be a minor trade with Kansas City.

Pitching for the Royals on May 16, 2011, Mazzaro gave up 14 earned runs in 2 13 innings during a 19-1 loss to Cleveland. It was a big league record for most runs allowed in less than three innings. He was immediately dispatched to Triple-A Omaha.

That was then. On Sunday, Mazzaro was the first Pirates pitcher since 1919 to throw at least five perfect innings in relief. He has a 1.82 ERA in his past 17 appearances.

“We wanted to give him a clean chalk board,” Hurdle said of Mazzaro's switch to the bullpen. “He bought into it.”

“I've have had my ups and downs,” Mazzaro said. “When things are bad I kind of don't let it get me a lot. I kind of thrive on it and just want to do better. And those things that happen, try to work hard enough where they don't happen again. I found a good spot in the bullpen. I'm feeling good throwing out of it, throwing consistent on a daily basis.”

All-Star update

Andrew McCutchen ranks sixth among National League outfielders in fan voting for the All-Star Game. McCutchen has more than 2.5 million votes and is about 407,000 behind third-place Justin Upton.

There were no Pirates among the top five vote-getters at either catcher or any of the infield positions. The NL pitching staff will be selected by manager Bruce Bochy.

Balloting ends at 11:59 p.m. Thursday. All-Star rosters will be announced Saturday.

Around the horn

Left-hander Wandy Rodriguez (forearm tightness) had a platelet-rich plasma injection Monday and will remain out for up to three more weeks. ... Outfielder Jose Tabata (strained left oblique) might come off the disabled list Wednesday when right-hander Brandon Cumpton is returned to Triple-A Indianapolis. ... After missing the past few games to attend to a personal matter, third-base coach Nick Leyva was back at his usual post Tuesday. Rick Sofield filled in while Leyva was out. … Tuesday was the first day to sign international players who are at least 16 years old, but the Pirates did not announce any deals. However, there are indications the team will make a couple of signings by the end of the week. ... The Pirates signed their 28th-round draft pick, right-hander Jerry Mulderig, who was assigned to the Gulf Coast League team. The Pirates have come to terms with 24 picks.

Bob Cohn and Rob Biertempfel are staff writers for Trib Total Media. Reach Cohn at bcohn@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BCohn_Trib and Biertempfel at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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