Rain washes away Pirates bullpen crisis

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While it's never ideal to see a two-run lead get washed away, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said Wednesday that the thunderstorm which caused the postponement of a game Tuesday against the St. Louis Cardinals at PNC Park might have been a blessing in disguise.

"You never like to walk off the field with a lead," Hurdle said. "The day of rest will obviously strengthen our bullpen situation, so there's a positive there."

The Pirates were leading, 4-2, when umpires halted play before the start of the third inning. The team was in the midst of a stretch of 20 games in 20 days and already was struggling to keep its bullpen rested. Since the start of that stretch Friday, the Pirates have promoted two minor league relievers to give the team fresh bullpen arms while most starting pitchers struggle to pitch deep into games.

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said Tuesday night he was OK with the rainout for similar reasons.

"Not a big deal for us to be able to give our pitching another day," he said. "I'm sure they're saying the same thing over there."

Starter Jonathan Sanchez said it was the first time one of his starts has been interrupted by rain in seven seasons as a pitcher. He took two trips to the batting tunnels near the Pirates clubhouse in an attempt to stay warm in case the game was resumed.

After struggling in the first inning, Sanchez settled in and pitched well in the second before the rain fell.

"It's not frustrating, but, when you're pitching good, you want to keep going and lead your team to a win," he said.

Had play resumed, Hurdle said they likely would have turned to Vin Mazzaro, called up Tuesday, with the hope that he could pitch until at least the sixth. Instead, the Pirates had six of their seven relievers available Wednesday.

"A day off is going to help everybody," reliever Tony Watson said.

Rodriguez will start Friday

Pitcher Wandy Rodriguez will make his scheduled start Friday,.

Rodriguez left early from his April 9 start against Arizona after sustaining a strained left hamstring. He missed a start Sunday because he still felt discomfort in his leg. The Pirates recalled right-handed pitcher Phil Irwin from Class AAA Indianapolis to make that start.

Rodriguez, a left-hander, threw a 25-pitch side session Wednesday, then told the team staff he was OK.

By being ready to pitch Friday, Rodriguez avoided a trip to the disabled list. Had he not been ready, the Pirates could have turned to Irwin, minor leaguer Andy Oliver or even Sanchez, whose outing was cut short Tuesday.

Talk about pitching ...

As Hurdle gave a scouting report Wednesday on St. Louis starter Shelby Miller, his mind wandered ahead a little bit.

"It's kind of like the Braves rotation coming into town," Hurdle joked. "They're about ready to cough it up."

The Pirates welcome Atlanta to PNC Park for the start of a four-game series tonight, and the Braves own a major league-leading 12-2 record.

The Braves lead the majors with a 1.77 team ERA, prompting Hurdle to joke with reporters later that Atlanta's pitching staff struggled Wednesday in a 1-0 loss to the Kansas City Royals. The Braves have allowed two runs or fewer in 10 of their 14 games this season and their bullpen has a combined ERA of 1.36.

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Michael Sanserino: msanserino@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1722 and Twitter @msanserino.


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