The Pirates shored up their bench again Saturday, recalling infielder Brent Morel from Class AAA Indianapolis.
Manager Clint Hurdle said Morel was promoted because of the uncertainty surrounding the status of third baseman Pedro Alvarez (sprained foot) and outfielder Travis Snider (hamstring discomfort).
Hurdle said Snider and Alvarez are likely out at least through the game today and might need more time to heal.
To make room for Morel on the 25-man roster, the Pirates optioned pitcher Jeff Locke to Indianapolis, although that is merely a paper transaction as Locke will be recalled to the majors and re-activated Monday when rosters expand. He will start Tuesday for the Pirates in St. Louis against the Cardinals.
This was the second move of this kind the Pirates have made in the past two days. Friday, they recalled Andrew Lambo and optioned pitcher Gerrit Cole — who will be recalled in time Monday to start against the Cardinals — to Bristol.
Morel hit .271 (91 for 336) with 19 doubles, two triples, four home runs and 53 RBIs in 92 games for Indianapolis this season. He has also hit .143 (3 for 21) with a double and three RBIs in 12 games in three previous stints with the Pirates this season.
Morton still ailing
Right-hander Charlie Morton has been on the disabled list since Aug. 17 (retroactive to Aug. 16) with right hip inflammation, and he made his first rehab start Thursday at Class AA Altoona.
Morton pitched four innings and reached a pitch count of 73, but he said Saturday he isn’t ready to return and might have to explore surgery as an option.
Morton said the discomfort in his side, which he said was officially diagnosed as a sports hernia, has not dwindled and he remains unable to pitch without pain. He said he will discuss his options with team doctors and the Pirates coaching staff about what the next steps are or could be.
“I obviously would love to be able to help the team,” Morton said.
“I want to do what is best for my team and for my own health, and so that is what we need to figure out — what is that best course. My feeling is, if I can help the team and be effective, then I will, but we need to make sure whatever we do next makes sense for everyone involved.”
Not looking ahead
Center fielder Andrew McCutchen said one of the Pirates’ strengths is the ability to move beyond games regardless of the outcome and not look past the next game. McCutchen said such focus will be important as pennant races heat up.
“I think we are just going to continue to do it as we always do it, and that is take it day by day and not look into the future,” McCutchen said. “And we just have to handle what we need to handle each day and not worry about the big-picture stuff. There is no need for us to worry about [the playoff math] because you can’t win 20 games in a day, you can only win one.”
The Reds have one of the most dangerous leadoff batters in the National League in Billy Hamilton because of his speed and ability to steal bases. He is second in the NL with 53 steals, including two against the Pirates Friday. He can be a headache for pitchers.
Hurdle, however, said that while speed is a game-changer, it only affects an opposing defense and pitcher as much as they let it. That is something they talk about with their pitchers any time they face a player like Hamilton.
“[Hamilton’s speed] can change the game if you allow it to,” Hurdle said. “I was fortunate enough to play with Willie Wilson and Vince Coleman, and those two guys could steal bases. And there were teams that allowed them to change their mentality. What we have talked about is, if he gets on, here is what we are going to do at first and second. So it is more your perspective, what you allow to happen because if you transfer your focus, a lot of bad things can happen.”
Paul Zeise: pzeise@post-gazette, 412-263-1720 and Twitter @paulzeise.