Pirates notebook: Bullpen pieces finally fit, and it looks familiar

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LOS ANGELES -- If the Pirates could draw up a blueprint of how a game would go down for the pitching staff, it likely would be a carbon copy of the Thursday night win against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Gerrit Cole provided a strong start in the opener of the four-game weekend series, going into the seventh inning. Left-hander Tony Watson finished the seventh with one pitch for a double play. Setup man Mark Melancon pitched a perfect eighth. And closer Jason Grilli locked the win in the ninth.

The band was back together.

"Anytime you know what your role is, what you're asked to do, it's easier to do your job, prepare for it," said Grilli. "Many of us are capable of many things. This is the way everybody feels most comfortable with now because this is what we're lined up to do and what we're asked to do."

Manager Clint Hurdle reconfigured his bullpen before the game, and it looked a lot like it did much of last season. The return to normalcy began when Grilli was reinstated from the disabled list five days earlier, having recovered from a left oblique strain.

"This one was minor compared to what I had last year," said Grilli of his injury. "Anytime it's your arm, that's very worrisome. I'd never strained an oblique. I could've come back probably a lot sooner had they let me. But I have to listen to the powers that be making those decisions and trust them."

Grilli avoided a rehab assignment in the minors by compromising with management.

"I kind of didn't want to have to do that. I wanted to face big-league hitters," said Grilli.

"I felt like that was going to be the best thing for me.

"Mentally, I went into it, like 'OK, I don't want this to turn into a prolonged thing.' It was more of a matter of me trusting them and them trusting me. It's how we came to that compromise."

He threw 15 pitches against the Dodgers, and nine were strikes. He allowed one hit and struck out two to end the inning.

According to Brooks Baseball eight were fastballs, six were sliders, and one was a four-seam fastball. His velocity topped at 94 mph.

And the night, went down as planned.

"That's what people like to see, right?," said Grilli. "If only you could draw it out in blueprint on paper.

"It doesn't always happen that way. We have to do this physically, mentally, too.

"It's always nice, when you know what you're expected to do. We know what we're capable of doing, and that's when things like that work out."

Platoon works at first

The Pirates first-base platoon of Ike Davis and Gaby Sanchez has played out very well so far.

"They handle their positions well. There's professional respect on both sides of it, which always helps that kind of tandem," said Hurdle.

"When they're working, they both pull for each other extremely hard.

"They understand the working conditions of the platoon to a certain degree."

Davis is hitting .284, and Sanchez .278 from the middle part of the recently reconstructed batting order.

"More often than not, it gives us a leverage opportunity," said Hurdle.

"I love the way these two guys have complemented each other. The production is playing well -- the RBIs, the slugging, the on- base percentage.

"Those numbers are really professional numbers, they're good numbers to have right now in that spot."

Shortstop switch by design

Shortstop Clint Barmes was in the lineup for a second game in a row Friday night after going 3 for 4 Thursday with two runs scored.

But that was by design going into the series, said Hurdle, and not a result of a hot night.

The Pirates wanted Jordy Mercer to rest for two games while giving Barmes some at-bats.

"We had planned on giving Clint some games here. Definitely the first two, we'll see where it goes just to give Jordy a break," said Hurdle.

"I told him. He knows it's going to be at least two games.

"He's been a good match up against left-handers, but I said I'm not going to paint myself into a corner, either. I want to give Barmes the reps, give him the at-bats. Since early May, last 21 at-bats he's got nine hits, swung the bat pretty well."

It's official: Rodriguez gone

Left-hander Wandy Rodriguez was placed on unconditional release waivers after being designated for assignment May 22 by the Pirates.

If being designated for assignment with a $13 million salary ($7.5 million paid by the Pirates) didn't signal the end of the line, this move makes it official.

Lambo has surgery

Prospect Andrew Lambo had surgery Wednesday to repair the ulnar collateral ligament in his right thumb. Lambo will rehabilitate in Bradenton, Fla. Typical recovery time for this injury is six to eight weeks. The surgery was completed by Dr. Thomas Graham in Cleveland.

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

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