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Pirates notebook: Hurdle discusses roster expansion

Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
The Diamondbacks' Didi Gregorius scores past Pirates pitcher Jeff Locke during the third inning Saturday, Aug. 17, 2013, at PNC Park.

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Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013, 7:39 p.m.

The Pirates will likely add nine or 10 players to their active roster in the final month of the regular season.

Major league 25-man rosters can expand starting Sept. 1. Everyone on a club's 40-man roster is eligible.

The Pirates will call up players in stages, starting with a couple of minor leaguers Sunday. Pitcher Jeff Locke and catcher Tony Sanchez will return Tuesday, the day after Double-A Altoona ends its season. Other players will trickle in whenever Triple-A Indianapolis finishes its playoff run. Closer Jason Grilli and outfielders Starling Marte and Travis Snider will return as soon as they're ready to come off the disabled list.

“When it's all said and done, we could be looking at 34 or 35 guys,” manager Clint Hurdle said Thursday. “We're really keeping it simple. We'll look at some length options out of the bullpen and obviously a starter for Sunday.”

The Pirates haven't named Locke's replacement for Sunday's game against the Cardinals.

Rookie Brandon Cumpton threw seven shutout innings against the Cardinals on July 30. However, he pitched Wednesday for Indy and is not likely to go on short rest. Kris Johnson threw six strong innings of relief Aug. 18 against Arizona, but he is slated to start Friday for Indy.

Smaller is better?

During his first few years as a manager, when the Rockies weren't very good, Hurdle liked the idea of expanded rosters in September.

“We were trying to figure things out,” Hurdle said. “We needed to get a look at guys, get 'em out and play, even though it's a watered-down month.”

The situation is different for a team in a playoff chase. Now, Hurdle would prefer the 25-man limit was in place year-round.

“I just like having the team that you've had (since April),” Hurdle said. “There are so many moves you can make (after roster expansion) ... and sometimes it gets a little bit out of bounds.”

Swelling the rosters with extra arms can negate the advantage for a team that already had a strong bullpen, such as the Pirates.

“I've been around enough years where you can really see the difference,” Hurdle said. “You've watched the whole league for five months and you've watched what you've got. You say, ‘You know what? Man to man, we're better than they are. Let's go play.' ''

Locke hits reset button

Locke worked out Thursday at PNC Park before leaving to report to Altoona. The left-hander will keep working on the side, but Locke will not pitch in any of the Curve's remaining four games.

“This was the best way we could all come to a compromise on me missing a start,” Locke said. “I want to keep pitching, but you have to look at what's right. These guys have to have somebody (pitching) every fifth day who they feel good about. It's time for me to step back for a second and kind of regroup so I can come back stronger and better.”

Locke said he expects to go back into the rotation when he returns Tuesday.

“I don't think anything is going to change,” he said. “This is just a way to give me a blow.”

Marte swings

Marte (right hand contusion, ligament sprain) took one-handed swings Wednesday.

“It's getting the other hand on the bat and we're hoping to do that maybe this weekend,” Hurdle said. “We'll start with some dry swings and see where that takes us. And maybe — maybe — if that goes well, we'll get him out on a rehab sometime toward the back end of next week. That's all speculation, but there is improvement.”

Rodriguez tosses

Left-hander Wandy Rodriguez (forearm inflammation) threw short toss on flat ground. He and pitching coach Ray Searage were smiling at the end of the brief workout, so it appeared to go well.

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

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