Pirates notebook: Hurdle tries to stay positive, calm as bullpen woes mount

Manager Clint Hurdle said Wednesday he felt no "heightened uneasiness" regarding closer Jason Grilli after Grilli allowed a tiebreaking home run Tuesday night against the Cincinnati Red.

"He got one pitch in a bad zone that got covered," said Hurdle, referring to the 2-0 fastball that Reds third baseman Todd Frazier hit to center to break a 5-5 tie in the ninth. "This has been a year where he hasn't been the only case where we're getting elevated fastballs that are in the strike zone, they're not doubles or singles as they've been in the past.

"Sometimes, they've been pop-ups and ground balls. They're ending up on the other side of the fence."

In seven appearances in June before Wednesday, Grilli had allowed four runs, six hits and five walks in 52/3 innings. He has allowed runs in two of his past three outings.

On the other hand, Grilli allowed only one run in eight innings with 10 strikeouts in his first eight games back from the disabled list. Grilli said after the game Tuesday that he felt good.

"Sometimes, I think it bodes well to give players an opportunity to push through some challenging times rather than to run to their aid or, in an overreaction [say], 'We need to make a change right now,' " Hurdle said.

"I like to watch things play out. I do believe that we'll make decisions that need to be made at the time they need to be made in the best interests of the ballclub."

Hurdle also pointed to missed opportunities by the offense as part of the reason the Pirates were dropping one-run games. Despite hitting .342 with runners on third and less than two outs before Wednesday, the 197 RBIs with runners in scoring position this season ranked 19th in the majors.

"They kind of go hand in hand for me," Hurdle said. "We win as a team and we lose as a team.

"We've got to find a way to tighten up some different aspects of our game to start winning those one-run games we've lost the last few days."

Cole's return nears?

Gerrit Cole threw a simulated game Wednesday afternoon at PNC Park. He faced Jose Tabata and Neil Walker and was scheduled to throw about 60 pitches.

Cole, on the disabled list with right shoulder fatigue, is eligible to be activated as early as today.

Hurdle said the Pirates wanted to see how Cole feels today, which is the best indication of how he has recovered.

Hurdle on Harrison

Hurdle said he hopes to find continued playing time for Josh Harrison after Walker comes off the DL, which could happen as soon as Tuesday.

"He's added an edge for us at the plate, in the field, on the bases," Hurdle said. "His enthusiasm and energy, I do think, drips onto the other guys as well."

Since becoming a starter in mid-May, Harrison has hit .330 with a .373 on-base percentage, three homers and seven doubles.

"Nothing changes for me," Harrison said after going 4 for 5 Tuesday night. "I'm ready to play every day. Situations come up but I don't worry about them. Everything will fall into place."

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

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