Pirates notebook: Hurdle likes progress he sees from Pimentel

Stolmy Pimentel has put together two sharp and lengthy relief outings for the Pirates since returning from the disabled list June 11, including four shutout innings Saturday that included seven strikeouts.

That's encouraging for Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, who said Pimentel is in line to be considered as starting depth in 2015.

"You've got coaches out there working him every day, letting him know the importance of the job that he does have and to nail the job that he does have," Hurdle said. "This is what you have now. It's a hard place to be for a young pitcher. There's nine days down in between opportunities and both of them are lights out. They're impressive. It's efficient, quality work both times he took the ball."

The signs have been there since he made the club out of spring training.

"In and of itself, the numbers, there wasn't a body of work [in spring training] that said wow," Hurdle said. "What we saw in September was encouraging. We were in a race, the games were meaningful. You try to focus on what he's doing, the environment that he's in. But is he following the mitt? Is the velocity there? Is there tilt to the breaking ball? Is there command to his pitches? That's what we continue to see."

Changes in the outfield

Starling Marte returned to the lineup after jamming his right middle finger last week.

Before the game, Hurdle said the club was still evaluating if Marte was ready for a full game.

"The deciding factor is the swing. The force of the swing," Hurdle said.

Marte started in center field, which gave Andrew McCutchen the day off to rest. Hurdle mentioned earlier in the series he would plan an extra day off around the team's off day today.

Hurdle said he will look to give Gregory Polanco a day off Tuesday.

"He's been out there, been through a lot," Hurdle said. "A lot of energy had to be spent, not just on the field but with all the other demands. Just the move up, emotionally, as well as just going out and playing the game. So it will be a good time for him to catch his breath, as well."

Rest for the weary

Russell Martin got a second day off in a row after sliding headfirst into first base Friday night, then getting tagged out at second.

General manager Neal Huntington said it made sense with a day game after a night game Sunday and today's regular off day.

"Russ threw his body around in our game and really [it was] a huge turning point in our game," Huntington said. "Clint and I walked through it and thought it was a good opportunity to give him just another day to recover and try to keep him as strong and as sharp as we can for the rest of the season."

Martin lingered on the ground after getting tagged out at second, but eventually got up, jogged to the dugout and caught the remainder of Friday's game.

All over the diamond

Huntington said the team has not considered moving Pedro Alvarez to first base and slotting Josh Harrison at third.

He said he likes using Harrison as a utility player and what Ike Davis and Gaby Sanchez provide at first.

"Ike, the power hasn't been maybe what it was in the past, but he gives us quality, professional at-bats and has played solid defense for us there," Huntington said. "If we can get Pedro back on track to 30-something home runs, being a productive major league hitter and playing adequate defense at third, that's a pretty good tandem to have on the corners."

He said he sees Harrison's value as a super utility player.

"To play a 162-game season this year, in this environment, it's about depth," Huntington said.

"We're working through all different scenarios, but right now what we feel very comfortable with is Josh bouncing around giving everybody rest."

Injury update

Andrew Lambo is in the early stages of baseball activity after thumb surgery, Huntington said.

"He's not going to miss as much time as you might expect for a guy coming back from surgery," Huntington said. "He's done everything we've asked him to do and he's just in the early phases of baseball activity from a right-thumb standpoint, meaning swinging and actually catching the ball."

Asked if Lambo was still a fit for the Pirates considering recent additions at first base and right field, Huntington said yes.

"We think so. Whether it's this year or could be somewhere down the road, we still think he's a great fit," he said. "You hit 30-something home runs, you can fit anywhere."

Jenn Menendez jmenendez@post-gazette.com and Twitter @JennMenendez.

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