Six-man starting rotation ends next week

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The Pirates will, in all likelihood, return to a five-man starting rotation when they reach their next scheduled day off, manager Clint Hurdle said Tuesday, forcing another decision on who will move to the bullpen.

The Pirates have carried a six-man rotation for the past week and will continue to do so until Aug. 23, their next day off.

Kevin Correia, who moved to the bullpen when the Pirates acquired Wandy Rodriguez in late July, returned to the rotation Aug. 8.

He started the game Tuesday night and is on schedule to start Monday on the road against the San Diego Padres, the team he played for before joining the Pirates.

When the Milwaukee Brewers come to town for a three-game series beginning Aug. 24, the Pirates will have to make a decision on the rotation.

Hurdle said the conversations have begun.

"We've got six to choose from," he said.

"It gets down to this point in time, you want to get the guys out there that you feel are going to be the most aggressive, throw strikes and make teams beat them with the bat.

"All those things are in consideration."

Aside from providing an extra day of rest, Hurdle said the six-man rotation keeps more pitchers fresh.

"It gave us a chance to get Kevin back in because you don't know the volume of opportunities you're going to get as a long man out of the 'pen," Hurdle said.

"It keeps them sharp, it keeps them engaged. It keeps them with an amount and a degree of responsibility that's tangible and substantial as well -- ownership of an opportunity to start and give the team a good positive start and push forward and win the game."

From a practical standpoint, the extra man does not change much.

"I just prepare my mind for the day I'm starting," Rodriguez said.

"No matter how many days. I got [today], so I'll be prepared for [today]."

Rather than throw a side session two days after a start, the pitchers throw their session one day later.

"We feel comfortable like that," Rodriguez said.

"It's only one more day off."

Some good signs from Cruz

Hurdle said he saw positive signs from Juan Cruz, who allowed one run in the eighth inning Monday night after walking two batters and hitting a third.

"The velocity was there," Hurdle said.

"I think he was all around the plate. Just some real close misses. The velocity was good, he said he felt good."

Cruz was pitching in the second consecutive game since returning from the disabled list Sunday. He was not available for the game last night.

First-inning blues

Opponents had scored a run in the first inning in six of the previous seven games entering the game last night against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Pirates had allowed 22 home runs in the first inning this season while being outscored, 81-56, in that inning.

The Pirates are 30-39 when their opponent scores first, 34-12 when they do.

McCutchen cools off a tad

Andrew McCutchen might have returned to earth, but his earth is still better than that of most players.

After hitting .370 in June and .446 in July, McCutchen was hitting .289 with a .377 on-base percentage in August entering the Tuesday game.

McCutchen also had not stolen a base since June 19. He has 14 steals this season.


Bill Brink: and on Twitter @BrinkPG.


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