SEATTLE -- In two short appearances with the Pirates, Duke Welker left an impression on manager Clint Hurdle. And he is one of many relief arms that have Hurdle feeling comfortable about his bullpen depth.
The Pirates optioned Welker to Class AAA Indianapolis Wednesday to make room on the 25-man roster for Jeanmar Gomez, activated from the disabled list. Welker wowed in two appearances, pitching 11/3 innings without allowing a hit or a baserunner.
Welker regularly hit 98 mph with a fastball that has late life and sinks on hitters as it reaches the strike zone.
"The two times out, everyone kind of went, 'Yeah. Good for him, good for us,' " Hurdle said.
But he's not the only one who could bolster the bullpen down the line. The Pirates could also turn to Vic Black, who has a 2.52 ERA in 20 appearances for Indianapolis, or Kris Johnson, who is on the disabled list but is 7-3 with a 2.80 ERA.
Jared Hughes, who pitched well in the bullpen last season but has struggled this year, is on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation and also could be an option. And Gomez, who started Wednesday, likely will move back to the bullpen when starters A.J. Burnett and Wandy Rodriguez return from the disabled list.
That leaves Hurdle and the Pirates with a lot of options for a group of relievers fourth in the National League with a 3.07 ERA.
Hurdle said this is the best bullpen depth he has had since becoming the Pirates manager before the 2011 season.
"Out structure out there has been as good as anything we've done," Hurdle said.
Of the seven bullpen pitchers, five are capable of pitching multiple innings. Setup man Mark Melancon and closer Jason Grilli are the only two pitchers limited to one inning per outing.
"Two one-inning pitchers?" Hurdle said. "There's not many teams that have two one-inning guys. It's as limited as three and most teams have four or five."
Nice honor for two prospects
Prospects Gregory Polanco and Dilson Herrera were selected to participate in Major League Baseball's Futures Game during All-Star festivities July 14. Both players will represent the World team.
Pitching prospects Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon represented the U.S. team last year. Polanco, an outfielder recently promoted to Class AA Altoona, hit .312 with six home runs and 17 doubles for Class A Bradenton this year.
He got the news Wednesday from Altoona manager Carlos Garcia after the Curve's doubleheader.
"That was one of my goals for this year, and I just thought, 'Wow, I made it,' " Polanco said. "I'm very excited."
Herrera, an infielder, is hitting .281 with seven home runs and 15 doubles for low-Class A West Virginia.
Taillon an All-Star
Taillon, a former second overall draft pick, was named an All-Star for the third time in his minor league career, joining teammates Casey Sadler and Jarek Cunningham in the Class AA Eastern League All-Star game, the Curve announced.
Taillon, a right-handed pitcher drafted in 2010, took part in the high-Class A Florida State League All-Star game in 2012 and the low-Class A South Atlantic League All-Star game in 2011. He is 3-5 with a 2.93 ERA this year in Altoona.
Sadler, also a right-handed pitcher, is 7-4 with a 3.06 ERA. Cunningham, an infielder, is hitting just .236 but has 14 home runs and a .480 slugging percentage.
The Eastern League All-Star game is July 10 in New Britain, Conn.
Staff writer Bill Brink contributed. Michael Sanserino: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1722 and Twitter @msanserino.