PHOENIX -- Come Sunday, the Pirates will need to improvise with their starting rotation.
The team announced Wednesday that left-hander Wandy Rodriguez had a strained left hamstring and that it was "not likely" that Rodriguez would make his scheduled start Sunday.
Rodriguez strained the hamstring near the knee in the third inning of Monday's game against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Pirates have not announced their plans for Sunday's game, but they have options. Manager Clint Hurdle said the team would consider starting one of the long relievers already on the roster, such as Jeanmar Gomez, Justin Wilson or Chris Leroux. The Pirates could also add someone from Class AAA Indianapolis to make a spot start. Left-hander Andy Oliver is scheduled to pitch Sunday for Indianapolis and is already on the 40-man roster. In two starts for Indianapolis, Oliver has pitched 11 scoreless innings, walking six and striking out 11.
Right-handers Kyle McPherson and Phil Irwin, who also are on the 40-man roster, are possibilities, though their scheduled starts don't match. McPherson was in the running for the final rotation spot during spring training.
If the Pirates choose to put Rodriguez on the 15-day disabled list, they can back-date the move to Tuesday, but Rodriguez would not be eligible to return until April 24. That would mean the Pirates need at least two spot starts.
James McDonald came to the plate in his first at-bat Tuesday night with runners on first and second and none out. As he squared to bunt, the Diamondbacks infielders scrambled into a "wheel" play, assuming the bunt and shifting so as to force out the lead runner.
That's exactly what happened. McDonald bunted to third baseman Eric Chavez, who threw to shortstop Cliff Pennington at third to retire the lead runner. The Pirates did not score in the inning.
"It was very disappointing that he didn't pull it back and whack at it," Hurdle said. "We spend an enormous amount of time with the pitchers handling the bats all spring training. He came back and was very disappointed. Quite frankly, he came to me and said, 'I know what I'm supposed to do.' "
McDonald came to bat in the fourth inning in a similar situation, this time with one out. Again the Diamondbacks infielders crashed the plate. This time, McDonald drew the bat back and hit a grounder through the now-vacant middle of the infield, loading the bases. The Pirates scored five runs that inning.
Part of the need to square to bunt, Hurdle said, is to force the opposing team to show its hand.
"The first pitch, I don't know what type of defense they're going to run," Hurdle said. "I want to see what's out of their hand and what they're going to do, so if you see a jailbreak, anytime you see a shortstop bolt to third, pull it back and take a swing."
When Hurdle arrived in Pittsburgh, he said, the pitching staff's ability at the plate was subpar. He has assistant hitting coach Jeff Branson work with the pitchers on hitting every day and hitting coach Jay Bell works with the pitchers on bunting.
Starling Marte extended his streak of consecutive games with a leadoff hit to five on Wednesday, hitting Diamondbacks starter Wade Miley's first pitch for a double. He is 10 for his past 21.