Leroux could fill void left by Lincoln's trade

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CINCINNATI -- For four months, Chris Leroux slogged through the slow process of rehabilitation and returning to pitch. He may soon see the payoff.

Manager Clint Hurdle said Saturday that Leroux could soon help the Pirates in some capacity if the Pirates find themselves in need of another pitcher. Hurdle said Leroux was the subject of internal conversations the past few weeks.

"We've gone through the trading deadline," Hurdle said.

"He's a guy without options. Where does he fit?"

Leroux, 28, went on the 60-day disabled list right before opening day because of a strained right pectoral muscle. The Pirates outrighted him to Class AAA Indianapolis at the conclusion of his rehab assignment in early July. In 16 games for Indianapolis, Leroux, a right-hander, has allowed 10 earned runs in 322/3 innings, striking out 26 and walking eight.

Leroux's previous two appearances entering Saturday night were starts. He pitched a combined 11 innings and allowed two runs, walking two and striking out eight.

"I think it is more along the lines of getting him stretched out, plus he's filling a void there, which is helping his development as well," Hurdle said.

In 2011, Leroux appeared in 23 games for the Pirates and allowed eight earned runs in 25 innings. Hurdle said he could fill the role Brad Lincoln originally had this season as a multiple-inning reliever. Five of Lincoln's first seven appearances covered at least two innings.

"I'm just glad that he's pitching more, he's pitching deeper," Hurdle said. "He's getting an opportunity to throw more. If something happened here, he's a guy that could slide in that situation that Lincoln first jumped into when he went to the bullpen."

Leroux is not on the 40-man roster, but the Pirates have one open spot after the trade deadline transactions.

Spot start

Kevin Correia will make a spot start Wednesday against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Hurdle said.

Correia will not replace Wandy Rodriguez, who was scheduled to pitch that day on normal rest, in the rotation. Instead, he will bump everyone back by one day. The Pirates are in a stretch of 20 games in 20 days, and their next scheduled day off is Aug. 23.

Correia is 8-6 with a 4.49 ERA and had won six consecutive starts in which he earned a decision. The Pirates moved him to the bullpen when they traded for Rodriguez. In one relief appearance before Saturday, he allowed four runs on five hits in two innings.

Moving up

Michael McKenry batted fifth for the first time this season Saturday night.

"Try a wild card in there," Hurdle said. "He's been swinging the bat well."

McKenry separated left-handers Garrett Jones and Pedro Alvarez in the order, Hurdle said, to prevent the Cincinnati Reds from using lefty reliever Sean Marshall against them in the late innings. His batting position also rewarded his recent performance.

McKenry hit .348 in 51 plate appearances spread across 16 games since July 1. He has five home runs and four doubles in that span.

"We'll see if there's more to it than that," Hurdle said. "I'm trying to feed him a little bit more, see if he can go ahead and take care of it."


Bill Brink: bbrink@post-gazette.com and on Twitter @BrinkPG.


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