Pirates notebook: Welker called up to fortify overworked, weary bullpen

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CINCINNATI -- Seeking reinforcements to their bullpen, the Pirates recalled right-hander Duke Welker from Class AAA Indianapolis Thursday and optioned outfielder Alex Presley to Indianapolis.

Four Pirates relievers -- Jason Grilli, Mark Melancon, Vin Mazzaro and Justin Wilson -- were not available for the afternoon game against the Cincinnati Reds after pitching Wednesday night in a 13-inning loss. Manager Clint Hurdle said Wilson and Mazzaro also might not be available for the game tonight against the Los Angeles Angels.

"He's got two days rest," Hurdle said of Welker, who previously pitched Monday. "He's well-rested. On the ninth of June, he threw three innings. He can give us some volume if we need to push."

Welker, 27, was on the roster in May but did not get into a game. His first appearance will be his major league debut. Welker has allowed 11 earned runs in 352/3 innings with Indianapolis this season.

Hurdle also said Welker likely will stay with the team the rest of the road trip, which includes five games in American League parks that allow the Pirates to use a designated hitter. Two relievers, Bryan Morris and Tony Watson, pitched two innings Thursday.

"There's a real good chance," Hurdle said. "We just had him fly in, we'll probably have him fly out."

The bullpen had pitched more innings before Thursday than any National League team and was hot on the heels of the Toronto Blue Jays for the high mark in Major League Baseball.

Presley hit .296 with a double and two home runs in the nine games he appeared in after his June 8 recall.

Gomez's return nears

Hurdle said Jeanmar Gomez might be ready to rejoin the rotation rather than make another rehab start, which could put Gomez on track to return in the next week or two.

"We'll see how he feels when we get our hands on him," Hurdle said. "He could be very well close to getting back in the mix."

Gomez pitched five scoreless innings without allowing a hit Wednesday for Indianapolis. He threw an additional 18 pitches in the bullpen after his outing to reach a total of 70.

The Pirates have three off days in the next two weeks that will allow them to skip starts and shuffle their rotation if they choose.

A right forearm strain forced Gomez to the 15-day disabled list in early June. He is eligible to be activated at any time.

Burnett update

A.J. Burnett's right calf felt good enough for him to throw some pitches off flat ground before the game Thursday. Pitcher Jeff Locke served as the catcher, with pitcher Gerrit Cole the umpire.

Caught stealing

Michael McKenry threw out two runners attempting to steal second Thursday. He had previously thrown out two of 30 runners who attempted to steal.

Shin-Soo Choo stole second in the first inning and scored, but was thrown out in the third. McKenry also threw out Joey Votto in the first.

"Great to see," Hurdle said. "That's another dynamic that we needed this game because if we're not able to handle that part of the game, who knows where that spins. Michael's worked extremely hard. [Jeff] Banister's worked extremely hard with him."

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Bill Brink: bbrink@post-gazette.com and Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published June 21, 2013 4:00 AM


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