SAN FRANCISCO — By 4 p.m. Thursday, the Pirates will have to decide whether or not to pull the trigger on a trade. Those in the clubhouse understand the situation, but say they stay out of it.
“I leave that to them,” said Andrew McCutchen, speaking at the All-Star Game. “I let them do that, it’s not like they’re in our clubhouse, doing that stuff. I’ll leave that to them. I’m not in their office swinging a bat.”
The Pirates began a series against the San Francisco Giants with a 55-49 record, three games behind the first-place Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Central Division and 11⁄2 games out of a wild-card spot. They are focusing their efforts on finding a pitcher.
“That’s out of our hands, to be honest,” reliever Tony Watson said at All-Star festivities. “They have a big plan up there, that’s why they’re up there and we’re on the field.”
The Pirates are looking at both starters and relief help, a need brought into focus by the 21 runs the Colorado Rockies scored — albeit at Coors Field — in three weekend games. The Pirates already attempted to strengthen the bullpen by getting Ernesto Frieri from the Los Angeles Angels, but he has wavered.
Their rotation as a unit ranks 10th in the National League in innings pitched and ERA. Charlie Morton, Edinson Volquez and Jeff Locke have been strong. Francisco Liriano pitched well in his previous two starts after struggling in his first start off the disabled list, but he is no sure thing.
Gerrit Cole was scheduled to make a rehabilitation start Monday. After returning from a DL stint due to shoulder fatigue, he went back on the DL because of pain and soreness in the right latissimus dorsi muscle in his back.
Colorado left-hander Jorge De La Rosa could be available, as is the case for 40 percent of the Philadelphia Phillies rotation, but, after the Boston Red Sox sent Jake Peavy to the San Francisco Giants, the market for starters has thinned.
The money still owed Philadelphia left-hander Cliff Lee and the uncertainty surrounding his health after returning from the DL makes a trade for him unlikely before the non-waiver deadline.
Payroll has room to grow
General manager Neal Huntington said recently that the Pirates have some payroll flexibility and can add salary at the deadline.
The Pirates began the season with a $78.1 million payroll, according to the Associated Press, and took on roughly $5.4 million in the pro-rated salaries of Frieri and first baseman Ike Davis.
Also under consideration, especially if they consider re-acquiring A.J. Burnett and his complex 2015 contract option, is the 2015 payroll, when McCutchen will make $10 million, Morton $8 million, and second baseman Neil Walker, and relievers Watson and Mark Melancon will earn raises in arbitration. They will need financial freedom in the coming seasons if they attempt to re-sign catcher Russell Martin, a free agent this offseason.
Injury clouds Kennedy’s status
San Diego Padres right-hander Ian Kennedy, an attractive trade target whom the Pirates have scouted in recent weeks, missed his scheduled start Monday because of a left oblique strain. The injury, suffered in an at-bat, means he will not pitch again before the deadline.
Bill Brink: email@example.com and Twitter @BrinkPG.