Pirates notebook: Russell Martin plans to return tonight

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Pirates catcher Russell Martin said he will be in the lineup tonight in St. Louis after missing a second consecutive game.

“I’ll be in the lineup,” said Martin, following the 2-1 loss Thursday in the series finale against Cincinnati.

Manager Clint Hurdle removed Martin from the lineup Wednesday about an hour before the game, citing a communication oversight, then started backup catcher Chris Stewart again Thursday.

“We’re anticipating every opportunity for [Martin]. That’s why he was basically stayed away from for two straight days. I didn’t want to risk anything,” said Hurdle, who stopped short of saying Martin was injured.

Martin scored the winning run from second base Monday night on Neil Walker’s walk-off single to shallow right and appeared to linger for an extra second or two on the ground at home plate.

Game: Pirates vs. Cardinals, 8:15 p.m., Busch Stadium, St. Louis.

TV, Radio: Root Sports, KDKA-FM (93.7).

Probables: RHP Gerrit Cole (2-1, 3.67 ERA) for Pirates vs. RHP Shelby Miller (1-2, 3.57 ERA) for Cardinals.

Key matchup: Cole is 1-0 against St. Louis in the regular season with a 2.57 ERA; he pitched twice against them in the postseason last year, going 1-1 with a 2.45 ERA.

Hidden stat: The Pirates have outscored opponents in the seventh (19-9) and eighth (16-8) innings, but have been outscored, 7-4, in the ninth.

Asked if that set off any injuries, Hurdle said: “No. Part of it. There’s been a lot of things. There’s lower-body soreness. As the game goes on, the soreness has a tendency to increase.”

Martin has caught 15 of 23 games this season.

“You know we’re just trying to do the best job we can at keeping him as fresh as possible based on the workload that he carries,” said Hurdle.

Martin will appeal his one game suspension by Major League Baseball for his part in the benches-clearing brawl Sunday against Milwaukee, which Hurdle said the club stands behind.

Hurdle also said there has been no thought of having Martin use the downtime this week to serve the suspension.

“First and foremost, the player’s conviction is to appeal it. So, you honor the player’s conviction,” said Hurdle. “You don’t do what’s convenient for the ballclub or what might be in someone else’s mindset of what makes sense. He is very convicted at seeing the appeal through at this point in time. And we’re going to honor that and back him.”

No surgery for Rodriguez

Wandy Rodriguez was optimistic that he might only miss one more start because of the knee problem that put him on the 15-day disabled list this week.

Rodriguez threw in the bullpen Thursday and said he expects to make a minor league start next week while the Pirates are in Baltimore.

“I think only one,” said Rodriguez. “Depending on how I feel, I’d be back for my next start.”

Rodriguez said an MRI earlier this week revealed there is no need for surgery.

“In the MRI, he said I can pitch like that. [The doctors] took blood out and put in cortisone,” said Rodriguez. “Maybe later, when I retire, I’ll need surgery on my knee. Right now, it can stay like that.”

Hurdle said the club has two options for the rehab start, an 11 a.m. game and a night game at Class AAA Indianapolis.

“I think it’s in everybody’s best interest he goes out and gets in a game situation as close as you can get to this level to get on that knee to get over that knee,” said Hurdle.

Hurdle said Rodriguez’s rehab start would be around April 30, which coincides with second of two games at Baltimore. He also will throw another side session Sunday in St. Louis, which will dictate exactly when the rehab start will be.

Time for a switch

With left-hander Tony Cingrani as Cincinnati’s starter Thursday, Hurdle moved Pedro Alvarez from the cleanup position in favor of Gaby Sanchez.

“Trying to not get in the way,” Hurdle said before the game. “Trying to help. Runs have been hard to come by in the last dozen games. We saw 150 pitches as a team, and [Andrew McCutchen] saw 32 of them [Wednesday night].”

Hurdle said the lack of left-handed starters against the Pirates hasn’t allowed him to bat Sanchez in the No. 4 spot.

“So we just want to try and find a way to get some more guys in play. Gaby has shown up well against left-handed pitching,” said Hurdle. “We haven’t seen that many. We’ll try and make the most of this opportunity.”

Sanchez went 1 for 3 and Alvarez went 1 for 4 with an RBI from the No. 5 spot.

Jenn Menendez: jmenendez@post-gazette.com and Twitter @JennMenendez.

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