The Pirates plan to manage Gerrit Cole's workload so he can pitch through September and potentially into October, general manager Neal Huntington said Sunday.
Cole, 22, a rookie right-hander, is scheduled to make his 11th major league start Thursday. He has pitched 129 innings this season between the majors and Class AAA and will soon surpass his 2012 total of 132.
"The one challenge that the general public doesn't see is the innings that he's thrown in instructional league or the pitches that he's [used]," Huntington said. "He's been much more efficient at the major league level this year than he's been in the minor leagues."
Huntington said the team will find ways to shorten some of his outings in addition to giving him an extra day of rest or possibly even skipping a start. Cole's start Thursday will be on an extra day of rest because of a scheduled day off today. Manager Clint Hurdle also will evaluate Cole from start to start.
"He'll watch what his eyes are telling him," Huntington said. "Is the stuff still crisp? Is it still sharp? Is it still commanded? Is the energy level the same?"
Whether and how the Pirates want to use Cole in a potential wild-card game or division series remains to be seen, but Huntington said they believe he will be available at that time.
McDonald on the way back?
James McDonald, who has not pitched in the majors since April 30, is scheduled to resume throwing bullpen sessions today.
McDonald went on the disabled list May 7, retroactive to May 1, because of right shoulder pain. He made some rehabilitation starts in June, but the Pirates ended his assignment June 25 after he continued to feel pain in the shoulder.
"We're looking for James to be able to help us at some point again this season," Huntington said. "It's a matter of in what role."
McDonald, 28, had a 5.76 ERA in six starts this season in which his fastball velocity dropped from previous years. He eventually said he felt sluggish since spring training.
"A successful progression, a successful completion of the progression, gets him back in the mix for us this season," Huntington said.
Calling all catchers
Huntington said the Pirates were pleased with Tony Sanchez as the backup catcher, but will continue to look for another catcher as well.
"We're looking for different ways to upgrade the club," said Huntington, who indicated the organization might search for a catcher it could send to Class AAA Indianapolis for depth.
Huntington noted that the Pirates would like to carry three catchers in September, when the active roster expands to 40 players from 25. Michael McKenry is out for the season after surgery to repair the lateral meniscus in his left knee.
Rodriguez still flat
Huntington said it was "early for us to publicly talk" about the next steps in Wandy Rodriguez's rehabilitation, indicating that Rodriguez's return to a mound is not imminent. He has been throwing off flat ground.
Rodriguez has not pitched since June 5. He is on the disabled list because of left forearm tightness.
"It's as much as building up volume of throws and lengthening out at times," Huntington said. "We'll do a flat ground from 60 feet. There will be some minor work off a slope, so it builds upon what happens today to create tomorrow's program."
Bill Brink: firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published August 5, 2013 4:00 AM