Pirates notebook: Gerrit Cole makes anticipated return to rotation

The Pirates sent Gerrit Cole back out to the mound Wednesday night after nearly seven weeks on the disabled list, confident he was prepared physically and mentally.

“I’m confident of the fact he’s learned a lot in the past two months about adrenaline, about over-amplification, about his body,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “I think he’s really looking forward to getting back in, making pitches, being consistent with his delivery, arm slot and competing at a level that’s very meaningful now.”

Cole was officially activated from the disabled list Wednesday before a game against the Atlanta Braves at PNC Park. Infielder Brent Morel was optioned to Class AAA Indianapolis to make room on the 25-man roster.

Cole threw seven scoreless innings and reached 92 pitches in his final rehabilitation start, indicating length would not be an issue since he was out with right latissimus dorsi muscle soreness.

“The rehab games were needed for a number of different reasons,” Hurdle said. “He’s wanted to impact this ballclub and now he’s going to get that opportunity. We’ll watch, he’s always going to be one of those guys who’s going to push the line as far as the competitive nature he’s got. It’s fun and it’s appreciated.”

Morton status

It’s still unclear at this point if pitcher Charlie Morton, who was diagnosed with a sports hernia earlier this week, will be able to return to the rotation next month.

Hurdle said treatment involves trying to calm the hip joint down, and if all goes well there is a possibility of a comeback.

“We’re going to try and calm the hip down first and foremost,” Hurdle said. “You calm the hip down from the conversations we’ve had with the doctor; there is a possibility of a return to pitch program that could be put into play. We’ve got to take it one step at a time.”

Extra rest

Neil Walker and Russell Martin were given an extra day off before a scheduled day off today.

For Martin, it was about keeping the overall workload in mind, and for Walker, the workload coming off an injury.

“[Martin] has been so good for us in so many different ways. We know what it felt like to play without him [for] a month. This is the program we’ve been running that finally seemed to work so well,” Hurdle said. “He’s been able to go through these spurts and have good energy and stay in games offensively and defensively.”

Snider spells Polanco

Travis Snider started in right field Wednesday night in place of Gregory Polanco, who was benched for performance reasons.

Polanco was 0 for 19 until two-run double Sunday against the Nationals, but was 1 for 26 with a walk dating to the start of a trip last week at Detroit.

“He went through the whole road trip with one hit, didn’t get one the first night back. I’m not good with math, but 1 for 24, 25?” Hurdle said. “I do know how that feels because those were my numbers quite often. It’s not too bad to take a break every now and then when you’re 1 for 24.”

Snider, meanwhile, has gone 16 for 38 with 5 doubles, 3 home runs and 7 RBIs over a 10-game hitting streak heading into the series finale Wednesday night against the Braves.

“Snider has posted up against a left-hander or two and stayed in and done well. He found his rhythm and his rhyme at the plate a few months ago and he found it through pinch-hitting,” Hurdle said. “It’s stubborn with his game plan, just taking the fastball to the big part of the field, getting short to the ball, long through it, extension to the swing, the change-up and the slider he’s pulling, everything else he’s looking to shoot [to the] big part of the field in left field. You saw it again [Tuesday] night.”

McCutchen returns strong

Hurdle said while he expects Andrew McCutchen to continue to progress since being activated Tuesday, he saw strong signs his star center fielder is physically ready to go.

“Got his swing off, got it down the line, range in the outfield,” Hurdle said. “It was good to have him back. I think every day his comfort zone will increase a little bit more. He feels good. He feels strong, and continues to tell me that.”

McCutchen went 0 for 4 Tuesday.

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

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