PITTSBURGH – Filling out the lineup card isn’t usually the most difficult part of Clint Hurdle’s day, but with four players felled by injuries in the Pirates’ 4-3 extra-inning loss to the Miami Marlins on Thursday, it’s going to take more effort than usual to find a healthy Starting Nine to face the Los Angeles Angels Friday night.
“[Francisco] Liriano is hitting ninth and [John] Jaso is hitting first. We’ll fill in the blanks in between,” Hurdle joked in his media availability in his office at PNC Park. “Our best effort tonight is to try and get a real good grasp on the severity of the injuries for each man individually, push through tonight to the best of our abilities, and then if a taxi squad opportunity opens up, to visit that maybe tomorrow.”
The Pirates’ manager still needed to have evaluations done and speak with Francisco Cervelli, David Freese, Andrew McCutchen and Jordy Mercer. After those evaluations, the lineup was released. McCutchen (thumb) is in the Pirates lineup and batting second. Cervelli (foot), Freese (hand) and Mercer (elbow) are not. Chris Stewart is starting at catcher and Sean Rodriguez will play shortstop.
The four starters leaving due to injury was a first for Hurdle, but he doesn’t see a connecting thread to the injuries, even though three of the four Pirates — Cervelli, Freese and Mercer — were injured after being hit by pitches, something that has been an ongoing issue for the Pirates this season. Reliever Ryan Vogelsong had surgery to repair multiple facial fractures on Thursday, as he continues to recover from being hit in the face on May 23.
“The game provides you different challenges at different times,” Hurdle said. “Cervelli got hit with a breaking ball in the back foot from a guy that’s pitching very well. It’s an outlier. The other two guys had spray command. We knew that coming in. There’s no intent. They just hit guys in bad spots.”
Hurdle doesn’t believe that any of the four injured players will require a trip to the disabled list, but being able to field a roster in the meantime without bringing up any fresh bodies could present a challenge.
“You have to weigh possible days down [from injury] versus 15 days down [on the disabled list],” Hurdle said. “When you have the volume of guys [injured] that we do, we’re trying to work our way through that right now.”