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Pirates notebook: Morton placed on DL; backup infielder Morel recalled

| Sunday, Aug. 17, 2014, 4:35 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media
Pirates pitcher Charlie Morton delivers to the plate during the second inning against the Marlins on Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014, at PNC Park.
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Pirates third baseman Brent Morel makes a diving catch on a bouncing ball during the sixth inning against the Diamondbacks at Chase Field on August 1, 2014 in Phoenix.

WASHINGTON — The Pirates revealed that right-hander Charlie Morton has been battling a sore right hip since June.

The injury has not abated and Morton's performance has begun to suffer. Sunday, Morton went on the 15-day disabled list and Brent Morel was recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis.

Why use an infielder to replace a starting pitcher? Manager Clint Hurdle offered three reasons:

• Morel can fill in if Neil Walker's achy back flares up again. “We have all kind of optimism that Walker's fully healthy, but we don't know (for sure),” Hurdle said.

• Morel can be a late-game defensive replacement for Pedro Alvarez at third base. Josh Harrison, who had supplanted Alvarez as the everyday third baseman, is filling in for injured Jordy Mercer (tight right forearm) at shortstop.

• Right-hander Gerrit Cole will come off the DL Wednesday to fill Morton's rotation spot. A corresponding move (perhaps a return-trip ticket to Indy for Morel) will be made then.

Whither d'Arnaud, Lambo?

The Pirates have three light-hitting backup infielders — Morel, Michael Martinez and Jayson Nix — on their bench.

Hurdle is aware some fans are wondering why Andrew Lambo and/or Chase d'Arnaud were not called up instead. He also knows that scouting from a distance by reading minor league box scores provides neither a full nor an accurate assessment of a player's potential at the big league level.

“I rely on the input from the Triple-A manager, the farm director, the roving coordinators,” Hurdle said.

Neither Lambo nor d'Arnaud figures in the Pirates' long-term plans. Management is curious to see what it has in Morel, who was claimed during spring training. Martinez and Nix are journeymen with significant major league experience.

Lambo and d'Arnaud have gotten chances to play in the majors. Lambo hit .233 with a .703 OPS in 18 games last year. D'Arnaud batted .208 with a .507 OPS in 56 games over 2011-12.

General manager Neal Huntington recently said the Pirates “have not been able to reach” d'Arnaud, who will be a free agent this winter. At Indy, d'Arnaud mostly is used as an outfielder.

“D'Arnaud has not spent much time on the dirt this year at second base or shortstop,” Hurdle said. “We need people who are able to perform right now and back up Walker and (help with) the challenges we have right now with Pedro.”

Lambo's natural position is outfielder. An attempt to switch him to first base during spring training did not go well.

“For what we need ... how much is (Lambo) going to play?” Hurdle said. “Do you want Lambo playing in front of (Travis) Snider? I don't. You want Lambo playing in front of (Gregory) Polanco? I don't. You want Lambo playing in front of (Starling) Marte? I don't. And he's not going to play first base in front of anybody right now.”

Brrr!

In a Facebook post, Gov. Tom Corbett nominated Walker and Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee to take the “Ice Bucket Challenge,” an online fundraiser for the ALS Association to battle Lou Gehrig's Disease.

“I don't want to stiff the governor,” Walker said.

Walker also was challenged by former Penguins standout Rick Tocchet. Walker said he'll take the challenge — dumping a bucket of ice water over his head, then making a donation — this week in Pittsburgh.

Catcher Russell Martin took the challenge Saturday at Nationals Park. Someone joked that for a Martin, a native of frosty Canada, a bucket of cold water might not feel so bad.

“No, it still does,” Martin said with a laugh as he changed out of his soggy clothes.

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

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