Bryan Morris, the Pirates' top pitching prospect, has been skipped in the Class AA Altoona rotation and might take additional time for a "breather," as director of player development Kyle Stark described it Friday.
Morris, a 23-year-old right-hander, is not injured, Stark said, though there have been recent signs of fatigue: He has been charged with 14 earned runs over his past three starts, a span of 12 2/3 innings that has been by far his toughest stretch over an otherwise strong season. In 11 starts since being promoted to the Curve, he is 4-4 with a 4.78 ERA.
The more pressing issue for Morris might be his overall inning count, currently at 103. The Pirates' plan, Stark said, is to keep his season total "a little less" than 140, which allows for only a handful of additional starts. The Pirates' preference in such situations is not to limit the length of pitchers' starts but to limit the number of starts.
General manager Neal Huntington had hinted earlier this summer that Morris could make it to Class AAA Indianapolis at some point this year, but the above two factors likely will work against that.
The Pirates placed another pitching prospect, reliever Jeff Sues, on the minor-league suspended list after he had been on the disabled list. There was no official word on the reason for the suspension, but it is believed that Sues would prefer a fresh start elsewhere.
Sues, 27, was the Pirates' minor-league pitcher of the year in 2008 and ascended to Class AAA last year, but he has missed extensive time to injury, including a shoulder last year and a strained chest muscle May 16 that placed him on the current disabled list.
For now, Sues remains part of the Pirates' organization.
Russell on Fielder
Manager John Russell did not take issue with Milwaukee's Prince Fielder raising his arms as he barreled into catcher Erik Kratz Thursday night, still a hot topic Friday.
"Was there some added aggression at that point in the game? Probably, yeah," Russell said. "But it's a big boy running into another big boy. It's probably going to be a pretty big collision. On those plays, it's not unusual to see the exact same thing. Early in the game, you're going to see guys come in with their arms up because they're not going to put their heads down. As the runner, you can get hurt."
Russell said he did not see it as an offense worthy of a fine.
• Center fielder Andrew McCutchen could return as early as tonight but "for sure on Tuesday" in Denver, Russell said. McCutchen participated in batting practice, did light throwing and was close to full duty with the sprained right shoulder, Russell said, and a solid batting practice today could make the difference.
• Catcher Ryan Doumit will have the weekend completely off to rest from his concussion, then resume baseball-type activity early next week. Russell indicated that Doumit's final three days on the 15-day disabled list will be spent on a minor-league rehabilitation assignment, likely with one day catching and two as designated hitter. "Our plan is to have Ryan back in the lineup on that 16th day," Russell said. That would be Aug. 6.
• The Pirates have not had significant talks with any team regarding reliever Joel Hanrahan, a team source said. The Post-Gazette reported Thursday that, according to a scout, the Texas Rangers had inquired about Hanrahan and that the Pirates sought young reliever Nefteli Feliz in return.
• Neil Walker's string of six multiple-hit games, which ended Friday, was only the fourth that long this season in Major League Baseball. The most recent Pittsburgh player with a streak that long was Nyjer Morgan in 2008. The most recent with one as long as seven was Barry Bonds in 1992.
• The extreme heat -- more than 100 degrees on the field in the afternoon -- limited the Pirates' pregame work to some fielding. All batting practice was indoors.