Pirates notebook: Locke to start Monday; Rodriguez not ready to leave DL

| Sunday, May 4, 2014, 3:32 p.m.

Left-hander Wandy Rodriguez is not yet ready to come off the disabled list, so the Pirates will recall Jeff Locke to start Monday's game against the San Francisco Giants.

Locke arrived in town Sunday and officially will be recalled from Triple-A before Monday's game. The Pirates will have to make a corresponding roster move, likely sending rookie Casey Sadler back to Indianapolis. Locke was placed on the disabled list for the start of the season because of an oblique injury.

“Every outing, (Locke) has gotten better (with) strike zone command, down in the zone, breaking ball, changeup,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “He's healthy. He's ready to go.”

Locke has a 5.04 ERA through 25 minor league innings this season, but he's stuck out 27 against six walks.

Last season, Locke won eight straight decisions from April to July and was named to the NL All-Star roster. However, he struggled in the second half of the season and eventually was shut down.

“That's the one thing that is challenging about Jeff is that his indicators were stronger in the second half (of last season) than the first half. But, obviously, the results were not,” GM Neal Huntington said. “The breaking ball has continued to get stronger. He's been 90-94 with the fastball. He's been able to move it around.”

Rodriguez has been out since April 20 with inflammation in his right knee. He's eligible to come off the DL Monday but instead will make another minor league rehab start Tuesday.

“There's been no setback. He just needs more time,” Hurdle said.

Marte's long-term lineup home?

Starling Marte was again out of the top spot in the lineup Sunday, hitting fifth in the order. Hurdle said Marte's long-term home might not be in the No. 1 spot.

“I know where I've liked him all along. I'm not going to share it with you,” Hurdle said.

Huntington acknowledged Marte lacks the plate patience of an ideal leadoff hitter. Still, Huntington praised Hurdle's lineup construction, which featured Josh Harrison batting leadoff Sunday.

“There's an accepted lineup structure from 20 years ago. Then there's an evolving structure,” Huntington said, “then there's the reality.”

He said it

Huntington on a Boston Globe report the Pirates are still seeking a first baseman via trade: “It sounds like someone, somewhere is trying to create a market.”

Mercer seeking timing

Jordy Mercer entered Sunday with a .189 slugging mark and .402 OPS. Mercer said his timing has been off and hopes Saturday's game-tying, seventh-inning double off the center-field wall is evidence he is rediscovering the power he demonstrated as a rookie last season.

“We've really been working tirelessly on timing, working with hitting coaches, just trying to get it back,” Mercer said. “Sometimes it's hard to do, but once you find it, you kind of take off with it. This is the first time I've been through a little bit of scuffle (at the major league level).”

Pepper games

Long reliever Stolmy Pimentel, who went on the DL Saturday, had a cranky right shoulder for a couple of weeks, Hurdle said. ... Huntington said 2013 first-round pick Austin Meadows is still dealing with hamstring “tightness.” Meadows has not yet made his 2014 debut.

Rob Biertempfel and Travis Sawchik are staff writers for Trib Total Media. Reach them at rbiertempfel@tribeweb.com and at tsawchik@tribweb.com

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