Pirates young ace Gerrit Cole is suffering from shoulder "fatigue" and is a candidate for the disabled list, manager Clint Hurdle said Saturday night.
The Pirates plan to recall left-hander Jeff Locke from Class AAA Indianapolis to start today against the Milwaukee Brewers and push right-hander Charlie Morton's start back a day.
It's unclear how serious Cole's shoulder issue is at this point.
"I think fatigue is the proper word," Hurdle said. "If you look at the season he pitched last year, the run he went on with us late, coming out of the chute. We really feel that it's fatigue."
Hurdle said the club is considering moving him to the DL in part to protect him.
"Yes," Hurdle said. "But other than that, just because you want to make sure you're protecting a guy. So the conversation is being had."
Cole, 6-3 this season with a 3.64 ERA, pitched in San Diego last week and went 52/3 innings allowing one run and four hits. Three of the hits came from the final three batters he faced.
Hurdle said there have been some signs that has led the club to believe the fatigue may have set in.
"There have been some things that we've talked about, some red flags you pick up, consistency of pitches, volume of pitches, efficiency of pitches," Hurdle said. "There's a lot of different factors that you look at. And you do talk to him and get his feedback as well."
Hurdle did not say if any diagnostic tests had been done yet, and Cole was unavailable for comment Saturday after the game.
The Pirates will announce a corresponding roster move today after Locke officially is recalled from Indianapolis.
Marte still on bench
Starling Marte took a seat on the bench for a fourth consecutive game Saturday.
Part of the decision was to try to capitalize on Jose Tabata's .438 average (7 for 16 before the game) against Milwaukee starter Matt Garza.
But the other side is this: Marte, the Pirates regular left fielder, was in an 0-for-20 slump at the plate.
At the same time, he made several fielding and baserunning miscues.
"He has not struggled like this ever, anywhere, and that freaks him out a little bit," Hurdle said.
"I said, well, you know what, you just joined the club because it happens to everybody."
Hurdle said he and Marte shared a 20-minute, one-on-one chat in the manager's office in San Diego earlier this week and made progress.
"The league has punched back.
"Those are the times I kind of enjoy, not on his behalf, but we talked in San Diego, brought him in the office. ... Him sharing some heartfelt thoughts and feelings, me sharing mine. Then you come up with a plan and go work.
"That's where we are right now," Hurdle said.
"I encouraged him. I'm not going to worry. You should not worry. You should work."
Hurdle said a trip to Class AAA Indianapolis is not an option right now.
"Triple-A hasn't crossed my mind, so I'm looking for an opportunity here first," Hurdle said.
"Creatively, there are options to make that happen, and I have confidence he'll bounce back and play.
"It's going to be exciting when he gets his game back."
Two-strike approach better
Pirates batters have fared better in two-strike counts this month, something Hurdle attributes the improvement to confidence, approach, and maturity.
"Approach has improved, confidence improved. They're looking for pitches throughout the at-bat," Hurdle said.
"We've got a couple of guys real comfortable hitting with two strikes. There's some maturity going on.
"That would be the best answer I could give you."
Jenn Menendez: email@example.com and Twitter @JennMenendez.