MILWAUKEE -- After allowing Justin Morneau a few days to become comfortable on his new team, manager Clint Hurdle inserted Morneau into the cleanup spot Wednesday night against the Milwaukee Brewers.
"I think it's an added level of experience and an added level of a different skill set that connects the dots a little bit more solidly through the middle," Hurdle said.
Pedro Alvarez has batted fourth against right-handed pitchers much of the season. Morneau, a left-hander like Alvarez, does not strike out as much and lengthens the lineup.
"Morneau wasn't here, Pedro would hit fourth. Morneau's here," Hurdle said. "I think we set up better with [Andrew] McCutchen and Morneau, I think it gives us a greater ability to continue to get to [Marlon] Byrd. You don't have quite the same swing and miss, you don't have the same power. It's a give and take"
Alvarez leads the National League with 32 home runs and 167 strikeouts. Morneau has 17 home runs, but 99 strikeouts, this season.
Alvarez batted sixth Wednesday night.
"You've got a guy that's done it, that's absolutely done it, and you've got a guy that's grown into it," Hurdle said. "Pete has shown the ability to drive in runs from the sixth spot a couple of different times, some lengthy periods of time throughout his short career in that spot. You've got danger in the sixth spot."
Buck's turn with Liriano
Newly acquired catcher John Buck caught Francisco Liriano Wednesday night rather than Tony Sanchez, who had caught Liriano recently.
"I don't think that Tony was a rabbit's foot for Francisco Liriano," Hurdle said. "I think that anybody that goes behind the plate and has caught a major league pitcher has an opportunity to work well with him."
Hurdle said whoever catches Liriano has to be good at blocking pitches in the dirt because that's where a lot of Liriano's sliders go. He also wanted to get a better read on the players he had approaching the point when decisions on the postseason roster must be made.
"We had no other options when Tony was here, so Tony was our pick then to give Russell [Martin] some breaks," Hurdle said. "Buck is a proven major league catcher. We want to make sure we get a good look at him as well, and get Tony in play as well."
Wandy Rodriguez threw "his most effective bullpen outing," Tuesday, Hurdle said, and remains on track to pitch Friday for Class AAA Indianapolis.
"He got after it [Tuesday] and threw and didn't feel anything, which is the first time that he's thrown and said at the end, there's nothing there," Hurdle said.
Rodriguez, who has been on the disabled list because of left forearm tightness since June, recently saw noted orthopedist Dr. James Andrews, who confirmed the findings of the Pirates' team doctors.
"I think, as much as anything, him going to see the doctor that he wanted to see and the doctor telling him the same thing he was hearing here, I think that can help a man's psyche," Hurdle said.
"Maybe over the extended time in the last week he just feels better because that's what he seems to tell us."
Bill Brink: firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published September 5, 2013 4:00 AM