Mazzaro accepts demotion to AAA


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The Pirates organizational bullpen depth was bolstered Friday when right-handed reliever Vin Mazzaro cleared waivers and accepted an assignment to Indianapolis.

Mazzaro, 27, was designated for assignment by the Pirates May 26, and teams had 10 days to claim him. There was no such claim, leaving him free to accept the demotion to Class AAA.

This was the second time this year he was designated for assignment and cleared waivers.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said he is happy to have Mazzaro back in the organization, adding he will likely be needed again at some point this season.

"Yes and no," Hurdle said when asked if he was surprised nobody claimed Mazzaro. "We get to see the work. We saw the work last year, we have seen a smaller volume of work this year. And, generally, when people are looking for arms, they look for starting pitching first.

"I'm happy he is back, he is ready to go. We encouraged him, 'You go where you need to go, you do what you need to do, but we'd love to have you back.' And now that he is [back], there will likely be opportunities for him."

Mazzaro allowed four runs in 101/3 innings for the Pirates this year.

Surgery for Welker

Pirates minor league pitcher Duke Welker had Tommy John ligament replacement surgery in his right elbow Thursday, and he is done for at least the remainder of this season and perhaps next season, too.

The recovery time from the surgery, which was performed by Dr. James Andrews, usually is 12 to 18 months.

Welker, 28, had not pitched since May 3, when he allowed two runs, two hits and two walks in 2/3 of an inning for Indianapolis. He went on the minor league disabled list two days later.

The Pirates drafted Welker in the second round in 2007. They sent him to the Minnesota Twins to complete the Justin Morneau trade last fall but reacquired him a month later.

Harrison a spark

The Pirates bats have been hot lately, and there is a direct correlation between the surge and when Josh Harrison became a regular and a fixture in the leadoff spot.

Harrison, who singled in the first Friday night to extend his hitting streak to nine games, is batting 37 for 106 (.349) in 25 starts.

Andrew McCutchen said Harrison's ability to get on base has been a catalyst for the offense.

"He has been doing a good job for us," McCutchen said. "You want your leadoff guy to work the count and do his best to get on base, and that is what he has been doing. He has been doing everything they have asked and at multiple positions.

"When he gets on, it gives an opportunity to the guys behind him to drive in runs, and that is all we can ask for."

Brewers show versatility

Hurdle said the Brewers are a tough lineup for a pitcher to face because they can generate runs in a many ways.

"They have a bunch of different ways to beat you. They have power, they have speed, they have a lot of opposite-field hitters, so it is not just a power-pull team. They are a good hitting club, and there are some unsung guys in that lineup, too. They can be pitched to; we have done it. We have to hit spots, move the ball around and change speeds. We have to keep the ball down."

Paul Zeise:, 412-263-1720 and Twitter @paulzeise.

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