CHICAGO -- Russell Martin returned to the lineup Monday against the Chicago Cubs, one day after pain in his left knee Sunday forced him to leave a game early.
"We had a chat," manager Clint Hurdle said. "He said he feels good. He wanted to play. I trust our guys. They trust the coaches and myself."
John Buck replaced Martin Sunday in the fifth inning against the Cincinnati Reds.
"I think sometimes he'll take a swing or something that tweaks it a little bit and then he's able to go back on a roll where he feels better," Hurdle said of Martin's knee.
Martin is batting .122 in September with a .189 on-base percentage, dropping his overall average to .229 entering a game Monday. His average hovered around the .250 mark in mid-August.
Martin has homered twice in his past seven games, giving him 15.
Ryan Doumit, now with the Minnesota Twins, was the previous Pirates catcher to hit 15 home runs in a season, doing so in 2008.
Grilli the closer again
Jason Grilli will serve as the Pirates closer, Hurdle said before the game Monday, and Mark Melancon will return to the setup role.
"Basically restructured the way it was the first 31/2 months of the season until Grilli's [forearm] injury," Hurdle said.
Hurdle did not say the moves were permanent, and Melancon could still pitch the ninth if the Pirates want to protect Grilli from consecutive appearances or high pitch counts.
Grilli saved his first game in two months Saturday. In 23 appearances since Grilli suffered a right flexor strain July 22, Melancon saved 14 games. He blew two saves in each of his past two appearances, though the second blown save resulted from a game-extending throwing error by shortstop Jordy Mercer and a two-run infield single.
In seven games back from the disabled list, Grilli has allowed four runs on nine hits in six innings.
Rotation for Reds Round 2
A.J. Burnett will start Friday against the Reds in Cincinnati, Hurdle said. The Pirates have not decided on their Saturday or Sunday starters.
Charlie Morton, who started Monday night, could take his turn in the rotation on regular rest Saturday.
Gerrit Cole, who will start tonight against the Cubs, would be in line to pitch Sunday. The Pirates also could send Francisco Liriano, the starter Wednesday, to the mound Sunday on three days of rest.
Liriano has started twice on three days of rest in his career and struck out 15 in 12 innings.
Hurdle said the decision might depend on where the Pirates stand in relation to the Reds and St. Louis Cardinals. The Pirates entered Monday two games back of the Cardinals and tied with the Reds.
The Cardinals play the Washington Nationals in St. Louis this week. Cardinals wins move the Pirates closer to clinching a playoff spot, as they would help eliminate the Nationals, the only team within striking distance of the Pirates and Reds. Nationals wins would help the Pirates keep pace with or gain ground on the Cardinals in the National League Central Division.
Asked which he would prefer, Hurdle noted he wanted to win the division but said: "I really don't care. It's out of my hands."
Bill Brink: firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @BrinkPG First Published September 24, 2013 4:00 AM