The shoulder fatigue that sidelined Gerrit Cole for the first time in his major league career left him with a lesson in how to listen to his body.
"I think it was just a gradual onset. [I was] not really thinking much of it since we go through a lot of different feelings throughout the year," Cole said. "Now you file that away and next time something like that creeps up, you can do something about it maybe a little earlier."
Cole will return to the rotation Saturday, and when he's officially reinstated the club will need to make a roster move, most likely sending a pitcher back to Class AAA Indianapolis.
It's unclear who that will be, and manager Clint Hurdle was mum the subject Thursday.
Pirates starters are 8-4 in the past 17 games with a 3.19 ERA.
"They've picked us up and have been throwing the ball well, especially as of late," Cole said. "There's a little extra added pressure maybe to come in and keep the ball rolling. But at the same time, you know, we're in a good spot right now. I'm just going to go out and try to give it my best effort."
Cole said he spent his time rehabbing, scaling back his pitching, then stretching himself back out.
"There were some checkpoints I had to hit. I hit them on target and we're going to the next step," he said. "You try to assess what happened, what got you better and how you can improve moving forward. You tackle it just like you would tackle any other thing."
He said he has a newfound appreciation of what a body can withstand going through a first major league season.
"It comes with the territory and being the first time, I've just got to try and take things in stride and learn from them," Cole said.
Putting a finger on it
Starling Marte was not in the lineup to open the series against the New York Mets. Josh Harrison started in left field.
Hurdle said Marte was still testing out the finger he jammed while sliding into second base earlier this week against Tampa Bay.
"The neck, the head aren't really an issue. He's being treated for that right middle finger," Hurdle said. "He's gone and tried to hit. So we're going to find out the capabilities and availability we'll have. From that standpoint it's better than it was [Wednesday], but we're going to go ahead and run Harrison out in left field."
Harrison has played in left at PNC Park before, including this season.
"You get to run a little bit farther. He's got speed and he's played out there," Hurdle said.
Francisco Liriano threw a 30-pitch bullpen session out of the windup. He will throw on flat ground today and if all continues to progress well, he is in line for another bullpen session Sunday in which he would throw all of his pitches.
Jack of all trades
Could Harrison be considered for the National League All-Star team as a super utility player?
Hurdle was posed that question, with a comparison drawn to Tampa Bay infielder/outfielder Ben Zobrist's first All-Star berth when Rays manager Joe Maddon coached the American League team in 2009.
"It'd probably have more legs if his manager was managing the All-Star Game," Hurdle said. "I think that was one of the things that worked in Ben Zobrist's favor.
"Is it a thought that has merit? Yes. It's like that sixth man in basketball. I mean, there could be an opportunity for a super utility guy to have a berth on an All-Star team."
Harrison has made starts in both corner outfield positions this season along with second base, third base and shortstop. He has batted .320 in his 42 starts, including a .384 average with runners on base.
The Pirates signed draft pick Jerrick Suiter, a 6-foot, 235-pound outfielder from TCU who hit .273 with 12 doubles and 29 RBI in 51 games this season.
He was also named the most outstanding player of the Big 12 tournament. Suiter was assigned to rookie-level Bristol.
The Pirates have signed 31 players from this year's draft, the most since 32 in 2008.
Jenn Menendez email@example.com and Twitter @JennMenendez.