Ian Snell will remain in the Pirates' rotation ... for now.
That was the initial message from general manager Neal Huntington yesterday afternoon, in the aftermath of Snell's 2 2/3-inning loss Tuesday, one that dropped him to 2-8 with a 5.36 ERA.
"He shows you flashes of what he can be, but it's a matter of how we draw that out consistently, can we draw that out consistently?" Huntington said. "At some point in time, the 'can we' becomes the question that becomes unanswerable. Not that we ever give up on a player, but maybe there's a different role, a different way we reach him. We may get to a point in time where it's, 'Do we put him in the bullpen? Do we option him to Triple-A?'"
Huntington expressed special exasperation at Snell's laborious pitch counts.
"The efficiency just isn't there. To get deep into games, we need more first-pitch contact, more pitching ahead and burying guys instead of nibbling and picking. It's not the inability to throw strikes because he shows the ability repeatedly to do it in the bullpen. What he gives you that's a positive is the effort in the bullpen, the intensity. Things are better there, so you don't want to pull the plug too quickly. But you do want to see results."
There could be more to it, though: Snell was waiting outside manager John Russell's office after the game last night, preparing to meet with Huntington and the coaching staff, so it is possible that a decision on his status could come sooner rather than later.
Snell and pitching coach Joe Kerrigan spent part of the afternoon working on minor mechanical issues, but the real focus was on -- what else? -- throwing strikes.
"I can't ask for more than what he gives us in the bullpen, but it's got to carry over out there," Kerrigan said, pointing to the mound. "It's not just strike one. There has to be more strikes in all counts."
Kerrigan pointed out that Snell's opponents have a similar batting average this season than in his peak 2007 season -- .264 to .279 -- but that the primary difference now is that Snell throws a first-pitch strike to 53 percent of batters now compared to 61 percent then.
"That's a huge difference," Kerrigan said.
He added that opponents are having much greater success against Snell's breaking pitches.
The one positive, all concerned agreed, is that Snell seems to be staying upbeat.
"I'm not worried," Snell said. "I know it's there, and I know I'll do better."
Charlie Morton looks likely to miss his scheduled start Friday against Kansas City because of lingering tightness in his left hamstring. That would mean Virgil Vasquez gets promoted from Class AAA Indianapolis either to take Morton's turn or to go to the bullpen and allow Jeff Karstens to start.
Morton pronounced himself "feeling great" after some drills yesterday afternoon, but that probably will not suffice.
"It's high in the hamstring, so it's going to take some time to heal," manager Russell said. "We have to be careful."
• The Pirates have approached Minnesota about trading for reliever Luis Ayala, a 31-year-old right-hander designated for assignment Monday by the Twins after posting a 4.18 ERA in 28 appearances.
• The Pirates made a minor trade, acquiring first baseman Brian Myrow from the Chicago White Sox for cash considerations or a player to be named. Myrow, 32, batted .277 with seven home runs and 25 RBIs for Class AAA Charlotte. He was assigned to Class AAA Indianapolis.
• Brad Lincoln, the Pirates' top pitching prospect, made his Indianapolis debut last night at Lehigh Valley and shined: He pitched 6 2/3 innings and was charged with one run -- scored after his exit -- and two hits, striking out four and walking three. His fastball stayed at 94 mph, and he used an above-average curve and changeup. "Made it look easy," said one scout in attendance.
• Royals ace Zack Greinke, the best pitcher in Major League Baseball this summer, will start in that series finale Sunday.