INDIANAPOLIS -- It has been 15 years since the Pirates have been in playoff contention and 20 years since they made the postseason, but today is the deadline for the front office to make a series of logistical moves that could determine how the team will fare in October.
All postseason rosters must be set by today, and any player on the 25-man roster or disabled list is eligible to play in the playoffs. Any other player in the organization -- whether they are on the 40-man or not -- could be eligible if a playoff-eligible player goes on the disabled list before the postseason.
Players the Pirates acquire after today are ineligible to compete in the playoffs.
Saturday, the Pirates can expand their active roster for the remainder of the regular season to include any player on the 40-man roster. Those are the so-called September call-ups.
The Pirates enter a three-game series at Milwaukee tonight, trailing the St. Louis Cardinals by in the race for the second and final National League wild-card playoff spot. The Pirates last made the postseason in 1992, which also was their most recent winning season.
"That magic date is Aug. 31," said Dean Treanor, manager of Class AAA Indianapolis, who is hopeful to see some of his protégés make an impact at the major league level.
The Pirates have some decisions to make as they try to piece together a roster that will make them competitive over the final month of the season and perhaps beyond.
A couple players the Pirates likely will consider activating by today include outfielder Alex Presley, who spent most of the season on the 25-man roster before being optioned to Indianapolis earlier this month, Kyle McPherson, who made his major league debut last week. They might also consider Justin Wilson, a left-handed pitcher whose future in the organization is as a reliever, and Jeff Locke, a September call-up last season who has excelled in a couple relief appearances with the Pirates this year.
But it is most likely the Pirates won't make more than a couple moves by the end of the day today.
"It comes down to opportunity and everything else," assistant general manager Kyle Stark said. "It's a heck of a lot easier to call somebody up Sept. 1 than it is Aug. 31."
As the Pirates look to expand their rosters starting Saturday, Stark said the team has to balance the needs of the major league team with the developmental needs of specific players.
"I think one of the factors that you're looking up there is, who can help us win a ballgame? And the other factor is, what does it do for him in his path?" Stark said. "For some of these guys, it's a matter of they're just waiting for the opportunity to go help the big league club. For some guys, there's still work to be done here."
Indianapolis, with the best record in the International League, has qualified for the postseason and is a favorite to win the league championship. Manager Clint Hurdle indicated the Pirates likely will have a couple waves of September call-ups -- a first group that addresses immediate needs on the major league roster and a second that will join the Pirates after Indianapolis' postseason.
"It's really about the championship in Pittsburgh," Treanor said. "There are guys that have been here all year, and this championship means a lot to them, but that championship push up there is what this is all about."
Hurdle said there is not a specific number the team will look to carry through September.
"We're going to have the appropriate number that will help us be competitive," Hurdle said. "That doesn't mean it's going to be fewer and that doesn't mean it's going to be more. We're going to look at areas that we think we have personnel to strengthen our club, specifically, and we're going to move upon that."
In addition to Presley, Locke and Wilson, the Pirates likely will consider adding pitchers Daniel McCutchen and Evan Meek, both of whom have major league service time, and Chris Leroux, who is not on the 40-man roster but also has major league service time. They also could consider adding relievers Bryan Morris and Duke Welker, neither of whom has appeared in the majors.
The Pirates likely will add catcher Eric Fryer as soon as Saturday to provide some depth at the position and likely will consider eventually adding Matt Hague, who began the season in the majors. They also might consider calling up infielder Brock Holt, who has played only 23 games above the Class AA level but is hitting above .400 for Indianapolis.
General manager Neal Huntington said this weekend that catching prospect Tony Sanchez is not a candidate for a September call-up.
Michael Sanserino: email@example.com, 412-263-1722 or on Twitter @msanserino. First Published August 31, 2012 4:00 AM