Pirates notebook: Josh Harrison heroics let Starling Marte regroup

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SAN DIEGO -- Josh Harrison started ahead of Starling Marte in left field Tuesday as manager Clint Hurdle gave one struggling hitter a rest while keeping a hot bat in the lineup.

Since the beginning of May, Marte hit .245 with a .310 on-base percentage, 28 strikeouts and 6 walks entering the game Tuesday against the Padres. He is 5 for 36 in his past 10 games and is in a 0-for-17 slump.

"Just unplug him, try to keep him out," Hurdle said. "If we need, him we'll use him, but try to keep him out of action, just to rest his body, rest his mind a little bit. It's been hard sledding here for a while."

Harrison, meanwhile, is hitting .326 with a .361 on-base percentage and nine extra-base hits since May 1. After he became the everyday leadoff man May 18, Harrison went 20 for 64 (.313) entering Tuesday. He took over the right-field job, for the most part, from Travis Snider and Jose Tabata around the beginning of May.

The Pirates typically want Marte in left field at PNC Park because his speed plays well in the spacious area. Hurdle indicated Tuesday that the Pirates might relax their approach in that department, meaning Harrison could play some left field at home if need be.

"We like our defensive alignment out there, but I still feel like we've got enough coverage that if it would go that way, we'd be comfortable doing it there, as well," Hurdle said.

Top prospect Gregory Polanco could come up at any moment and play right field, meaning Harrison would have to find a new home.

Hurdle said he sometimes looks at the left fielders other teams run out into the expanse at PNC Park.

"Some of the teams, they put guys out there, they really pay no nevermind to it," he said. "No disrespect to Eric Hinske because I'll see him next week, but he played a game or two in left field at PNC Park, just because of the setup."

Hinske, who played for the Pirates in 2009, is now the first-base coach for the Chicago Cubs, who come to PNC Park for a four-game series starting Monday.

On the rebound

Stolmy Pimentel will make his next rehabilitation outing Friday, pitching three innings for Class AA Altoona, Hurdle said.

Pimentel pitched two scoreless innings in relief when he started his rehab assignment Monday for Class A Bradenton, walking one and striking out two without allowing a hit. He is on the 15-day disabled list because of right shoulder inflammation.

"Command got better as the outing went on, second inning was better than the first," Hurdle said. "He sprayed it arm-side a little bit early and then he got extension, fastball to the glove side, as well. Threw some good [splitters]."

Sticking to the script

Brandon Cumpton will start Friday's series opener against the Milwaukee Brewers, Hurdle said. Edinson Volquez will pitch Saturday, followed by Charlie Morton Sunday.

Staying on schedule with the rotation rather than skipping a starter allows everyone an extra day of rest heading into 23 games in 24 days.

Bill Brink: bbrink@post-gazette.com and Twitter @BrinkPG.

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