PITTSBURGH — Pirates reliever Edgar Santana pitched for multiple innings for the first time in his MLB career on Wednesday against the Colorado Rockies.
Santana went back out for a second frame after a 1-2-3 sixth inning that took just nine pitches. The seventh inning wasn’t nearly as kind to Santana, as he gave up a double, a fly out, a walk and a single before being lifted for Daniel Hudson with one out.
Multi-inning outings are still something relatively new to Santana. This season with Triple-A Indianapolis, he threw three innings once and more than one inning another nine times. Santana said he’s still working through the physical parts of getting his arm ready for a second inning.
“I’m still learning about that,” he said. “In my career, I always was a guy that was always one inning coming in the eighth or the ninth, so I’m still learning out there.”
With the back-end of the bullpen currently consisting of the Felipe Rivero-Juan Nicasio tandem and Daniel Hudson returning to form, it seems that most opportunities for Santana are going to come in lower leverage situations. Hurdle said it’s tough to have someone in that role that can only pitch one inning.
“It’s something that we wanted to look at, especially when he throws a nine- or ten-pitch first inning,” Hurdle said. “We would be hard pressed to carry just a one-inning guy at this time. We’re looking at that option. We’ll see what comes of it, what his comfort zone is with it, because he’s done it throughout the minor leagues. It’s not something that we’re asking him to do up here that he’s never done before. We’ll see where the role takes him.”
Santana has embraced the role and the opportunity it’s given him.
“I felt pretty comfortable,” he said. “I was attacking the zone. My arm felt a little bit tired. It’s something that I have to work on. I think next, time, I can do it better.
Catcher Chris Stewart ran the bases on Friday for the first time as he recovers from a left hamstring strain. Stewart said that’s usually the last step for players as they recover from that injury. It now remains to be seen if he’ll need a minor-league rehab assignment or will return to the 25-man roster. Stewart has been out of action since May 30.
Despite Stewart’s continued absence, the Pirates still are carrying three catchers. Hurdle said that’s because the team wants to take it slow with Francisco Cervelli as he returns from a concussion. Cervelli caught his second game back on Friday, but has not yet caught back-to-back days. The Pirates have a day game Sunday after an 8:15 p.m. start time on Saturday night.
“Our goal, talking internally, is to get Francisco through the weekend and where that takes us,” Hurdle said. “It’s not something I’m warm and fuzzy about, carrying three catchers. It challenges your versatility.”
Hurdle added that Elias Diaz’s prowess with the bat and his ability to be used as a pinch hitter does lessen the blow.
I wrote extensively about Gregory Polanco’s struggles since coming back from his injury on Sunday.
Friday, Hurdle discussed some of the things the team is considering to get the starting right fielder on track.
“Andrew (McCutchen) went through it for an extended period of time,” Hurdle said. “Maybe we’ll figure some things out and take some of the routes that we used for Andrew to help him re-ignite as well.”
That could include moving Polanco down in the order or giving him some days off to work things out. Hurdle added that he thinks they’ve isolated the issue, but Polanco needs to continue to work to correct it.
“There’s just a little flaw somewhere in the swing that we think we’ve identified, but getting that work done early and then taking it out there in the game to find the barrel, because it’s just been off the barrel,” Hurdle said. “Balls are being hit, there’s just not the exit velocity that we’re accustomed to.”