Pirates notebook: Two backup shortstops converge in Class AAA

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MILWAUKEE -- Before long, both players who represent the Pirates' shortstop depth will be on rehabilitation assignments.

John McDonald will travel to Indianapolis today and is scheduled to start his rehabilitation assignment Monday with the Pirates' Class AAA affiliate. He will join Chase d'Arnaud, who had his rehabilitation assignment transferred to Indianapolis Saturday.

McDonald, who is officially on the disabled list because of a lower back strain but has elbow issues as well, said he feels better and has been throwing, fielding and hitting.

"Whatever the trainers tell me to do," McDonald said of his rehabilitation work.

McDonald described the back pain as a spasm.

"It was not going to be comfortable for him to try and do anything for the first three days," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "Now you're talking about a defender in the middle of the field, it's a high risk at his age [38]. Play it safe. It won't hurt to get some at-bats as part of his rehab."

Hurdle said McDonald is scheduled for a game each at second base and shortstop, then a day off, then two more games with a full nine innings in the field.

"We're looking at six, seven days from [Sunday] about making an evaluation to some degree if all goes well," Hurdle said.

Considering the DH

Hurdle said the Pirates are still deciding whether to make a roster move in advance of the two-game series against the Detroit Tigers that begins Monday at Comerica Park, where they can use a designated hitter.

The Pirates will face Tigers ace Justin Verlander Monday and Rick Porcello Tuesday, both right-handers. They likely will face right-handers Anibal Sanchez and Doug Fister Wednesday and Thursday, when the Tigers travel to PNC Park.

"We're going to face four right-handers," Hurdle said. "We've checked out the bullpen, there's a nice balance in the bullpen with the three left-handers and four right-handers. We're mapping it all out."

Following from afar

Hurdle said he has paid attention to Brewers right-hander Mike Fiers, who started Saturday in place of Kyle Lohse, because of the difficult times Fiers has faced off the field.

Fiers' mother is ill and battling lupus, according to a report in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The Brewers transferred Fiers from Class AAA Nashville to their Florida State League affiliate, a Class A team, so Fiers could be closer to his mother in Fort Lauderdale.

"Kid's had perseverance, resiliency, he's battled personally, professionally," Hurdle said. "I pull for him when he's not on the mound against us. I don't even know him. Just read his story. Kept up with him."

Cole rebounds

Gerrit Cole allowed three consecutive singles to begin the first inning of his start Saturday for Class AAA Indianapolis. He also threw a wild pitch and walked two, and Buffalo scored two runs.

Those runs and hits were the only ones Cole would allow for the remainder of his six-inning outing.

Cole was the loser but pitched five scoreless innings after the first. He walked one more batter, did not allow another hit and struck out four.

The outing represented an improvement over his previous start May 19, when he allowed eight runs in 5 2/3 innings.


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


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