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Pirates notebook: Cumpton gets chance in rotation vs. Mets

| Sunday, May 25, 2014, 3:30 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Brandon Cumpton delivers to the plate against the Reds on April 24, 2014, at PNC Park.

Neal Huntington confirmed that Brandon Cumpton will start against the Mets on Monday, and while the Pirates don't want the right-hander looking over his shoulder, the Pirates general manager stopped short of saying the rotation spot was Cumpton's to keep.

“Our challenge is we have two guys that we like a lot and feel can very easily fill that role in Jeff Locke and Brandon Cumpton,” Huntington said. “We've got a couple of other guys in Casey Sadler and Vance Worley, who's putting himself in that conversation. We've got some depth. We've got some options.”

Cumpton takes the place — for now — of left-hander Wandy Rodriguez, who was designated for assignment Thursday after giving up six runs on seven hits in 1 23 innings the night before. Cumpton has made two starts for the Pirates this season (0-1) and has an ERA of 4.26 in 12 23 innings and was in line to make the start. He is 4-1 with a 1.35 ERA in six starts with Triple-A Indianapolis.

Locke, who was well on his way to an All-Star nod at this time last year, would have either had to pitch on nine or three days' rest, Huntington said. The left-hander is 2-1 with a 3.92 ERA in seven starts with Indianapolis

“Jeff wants to be in the big leagues and deserves to be in the big leagues,” Huntington said. “We just haven't given him that opportunity yet, but we continue to reinforce to Jeff that we see the signs, we see the positives and the good things that he's doing and we do have confidence that he's ready to come up here. The timing was poor this time through, but we're looking forward to him continuing to do what he needs to do to put himself in the position to be the next guy up.”

Adding to the arsenal

Cumpton's challenge coming out of the draft, Huntington said, was his secondary stuff. His slider needed development and the changeup was a work in progress. Despite improvement, Cumpton still needs to show that he can get through a lineup a third time in order to establish himself as a major leaguer, Huntington said.

“It's hard for a major league starter to get through a lineup with two pitches a third time,” Huntington said. “That third pitch becomes a prerequisite to get through a lineup on a consistent basis unless you've got two wipeout pitches.”

Volquez can empathize

Edinson Volquez was surprised to learn when he got to PNC Park on Thursday that Rodriguez had been designated for assignment, perhaps first and foremost because of the left-hander's salary.

“Because he's a guy making more money than (anyone on) the whole team, $13 million,” said Volquez, who will face left-hander Jonathon Niese on Tuesday. “It never crossed your mind that he'd be put on waivers.”

Later that night, Volquez redeemed himself from his previous start in which he allowed four home runs and five runs in 6 13 innings against the Yankees. The right-hander can empathize with being let go. He was designated for assignment by San Diego last August and became a free agent before signing with the Dodgers three days later.

“That's a big loss for us because we were pretty close, we were pretty tight. He's a great guy,” Volquez said of Rodriguez. “But I guess it can happen to anybody. It happened to me last year. You lost a job, but you didn't lose a life. That's what I told him (Thursday). Hopefully, he can find another job somewhere.”

Defense key at short

Josh Harrison was 2 for 4 with a home run Sunday, but while Huntington has heard the suggestions that perhaps Harrison could play shortstop, the general manager said the team is happy with the defense of Jordy Mercer and Clint Barmes.

“While Josh is swinging the bat better, Jordy and Clint are better defensively,” Huntington said. “That's no slight to Josh, that's meant to be a compliment to those two guys. That's a position in the organization that we believe we have to handle the baseball, and when it's hit to shortstop, it's a 6-3 or a double-play ball. Josh is playing great, and he's making us feel like maybe we've underevaluated him a little bit. It would be fun to see him do this over an extended period of time.”

Karen Price is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach her at kprice@tribweb.com or via Twitter @KarenPrice_Trib.

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