Pirates notebook: Third-base coach Leyva plays percentages with baserunners

Pirates right fielder Jose Tabata rounds the bases past third base coach Nick Leyva after homering during the fourth inning against the Rockies on Saturday, Aug. 3, 2013, at PNC Park.
Pirates right fielder Jose Tabata rounds the bases past third base coach Nick Leyva after homering during the fourth inning against the Rockies on Saturday, Aug. 3, 2013, at PNC Park.
Photo by Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Rob Biertempfel
| Friday, Sept. 6, 2013, 8:30 p.m.

ST. LOUIS — After the Pirates traded for Marlon Byrd, third base coach Nick Leyva cracked open his old scouting reports.

Although Byrd infuses some thump into the lineup, the Pirates' offense still heavily relies on runners making heads-up decisions and taking extra bases. Leyva needs to get a sense for when he should and shouldn't push the envelope with Byrd.

“I go back and look at my charts,” Leyva said. “We've played against (Byrd) when he was with the Mets and Cubs, so we have plenty of reports.”

That's not the case with Justin Morneau, who spent his entire career with the Twins in the American League before being dealt to the Pirates on Aug. 31. But it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that Morneau — who's swiped five bases in 11 seasons — is a slugger, not a sprinter.

“I know Morneau's not a base-stealer,” Leyva said. “But, a lot of guys, once they get running, as long as they give you that good effort, you see where they're at and where the ball's at and you know what it will take to thrown them out.”

No plan is foolproof, though. Wednesday, Morneau was thrown out trying to score from first base on Byrd's double to center field in Milwaukee.

“I've always been an aggressive guy,” Leyva said. “I probably make more aggressive mistakes than passive ones. Game situation dictates a lot about what you do. As soon as you try to force yourself into doing something just to make things happen, that's when you get into trouble.”

Locke eager to return

Saturday, left-hander Jeff Locke will make his first start in 11 days when he faces the Cardinals — in front of what likely will be a sellout crowd on the road, in the thick of a pennant chase.

No pressure, right?

“No, not at all,” Locke said, grinning. “I know I've got to take care of me. That's all I can really worry about. I know what I'll get from the defense, so I've really just got to go and do my job.”

On Aug. 28, the day after a rocky outing in a 7-6 loss against the Milwaukee Brewers, Locke was sent to Double-A Altoona.

Locke did not throw from atop a mound during his sabbatical, although he made about 15 throws from the slope one day in addition to playing catch.

“There wasn't anything in particular that I worked on,” Locke said. “Just a mental, as well as a physical, break.”

Planet of the aches

Left-hander Wandy Rodriguez (forearm tightness, arthritis) made a rehab start Friday with Triple-A Indianapolis in an International League playoff game. Rodriguez worked three innings, allowed two runs (one earned) on three hits and struck out one.

Hurdle called the outing “an eyeball test” of Rodriguez's recovery. It's still uncertain what kind of role, if any, Rodriguez will have with the Pirates down the stretch.

“You might roll the dice and start him, piggyback him with somebody else or piggyback him behind a starter who gets knocked out early,” Hurdle said. “Or you might look for another opportunity. You have to get creative.”

Starling Marte (left hand contusion, sprained ligament) took two-handed swings Thursday hitting off a tee. “We might get to the point here where we just activate him and use him to run the bases,” Hurdle said.

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

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