Pirates Notebook: Bullpen's new nickname brings out sharks

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There are sharks in PNC Park.

A 150-gallon salt-water tank is now in the Pirates clubhouse and in it are two small sharks along with two other predatory fish. The shark tank surfaced because of the Pirates' "Shark Tank bullpen," a nickname the unit earned because of how dominant it has been this season.

Manager Clint Hurdle was asked about it and said he has no issues with the players having some fun.

"I didn't know if I had to pay if I had to look at it, but they said there was no admission so we are good," Hurdle said. "I was a little confused with the blowfish, but then they said [Mike] Zagurski brought that [after being called up]. ... Ah, they are having fun with it, man, you have to have some fun in this game, I'm a big fan of fun.

"We like focus, we like results, but, sometimes, the fun has to be first, so they have identified with it and embraced it, so we will roll with it."

The tank, loaned to the clubhouse by Elmer's Aquarium for the rest of the season, contains a Saddle Back Grouper, a Banded Cat Shark, a Dogface Puffer and a Coral Cat Shark.

The aquarium will be maintained by Elmer's Aquarium, which is owned by season ticket-holder Gary Knabe.

Morton update

Pitcher Charlie Morton might be closing in on his return to the Pirates. He is scheduled for one more rehabilitation start with Class AAA Indianapolis.

Morton will pitch Sunday against Columbus and will be limited to 80 pitches. Hurdle said Morton will be evaluated after Sunday on performance, health and his command of pitches.

"We will see how he feels after that one," Hurdle said. "We will have a more acute focus on pitch selection, he has to nail the sinker, throw the curveball and the changeup."

He added that he also wants to see Morton throw the 2-seam fastball and 4-seam fastball well.

Gomez future unclear

Conventional wisdom holds that when Morton returns, Jeanmar Gomez will leave the starting rotation and return to the bullpen.

But Gomez has been good as a starter -- he is 2-0 after six starts and has an overall 2.30 ERA this season. His performance has forced the front office and Hurdle to rethink what they should do with him when Morton returns.

"We thought Jeanmar had an opportunity to be a bounce-back guy [when the Pirates traded for him in the offseason]," Hurdle said. "I think right now, we are not going to throw anything out there [about Gomez's future,] but we have to honor what he has done and the way he has pitched. A lot of things to consider, but we will figure it out."

Cabrera as good as it gets

Hurdle was asked about Detroit Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera and, more to the point, just how good is he.

"He is as good as we have going in the industry," Hurdle said. "Not since [Barry] Bonds was in a lineup, and [Albert] Pujols was a second guy, and this guy is another guy you throw in that category that you know when he is going to hit again. He is a game-changer. He is a guy you talk about if there are two outs late in a game and he is at the plate, 'Do we just walk him?' And you don't have those conversations very often."

Leyland knows NL, too

The Tigers and Pirates played in two games in Detroit Monday and Tuesday, then moved to PNC Park for games Wednesday night and tonight. But the teams can't use a designated hitter here.

Hurdle said that obviously hurts the American League team more than the National League team, but, in this case, the Tigers have a manager, Jim Leyland, who is more than capable of making double switches and using pinch hitters wisely.

"[Tigers DH Victor Martinez] can't play and their pitcher gets to hit which is kind of cheesy for them," Hurdle said. "But they have a manager over there who can do this in his sleep, National League, American League -- the game is not going to present anything to Jimmy he can't handle."

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Paul Zeise: pzeise@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1720 and Twitter @paulzeise.


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