PITTSBURGH - The Pittsburgh Pirates sent pitcher Brandon Cumpton to the minors on Saturday afternoon, a demotion that was expected if not deserved.
Cumpton was optioned to Class AAA Indianapolis to clear a roster spot for Gerrit Cole, who started in the 5-3 loss to the New York Mets at PNC Park.
Cumpton was one day removed from his third straight strong start. In his three most recent starts, he pitched 20 innings, allowing five earned runs (2.25 ERA) with four walks and 16 strikeouts.
But when it came time to move a pitcher, Cumpton was the obvious choice among the three who have been called up. Jeff Locke and Vance Worley were the other two starters brought up from Indianapolis.
"It was not a pitch-off," manager Clint Hurdle said. "It's not you won third place. It's not you did third-best. Worley has not a (minor league) option. He's pitched well. He's staying.
"Locke has pitched well. He was an All-Star last year. He's back in play. He's staying. (Cumpton) pitched well. (He) has no need to hang his head or anything. Guys are going to hug him, and tell him 'Great job' and look forward to him coming back.
"Sometimes when you go, it's just, 'Hey, see ya' (from teammates). There won't be a 'hey, see ya' from one man this time when he walks out. He met the demands, he picked up the club, he made a difference. Take that with you, go back down and stay hungry and compete, because we're going to need you again."
Despite a flight delay on his way from Kansas City, newly-acquired Ernest Frieri was in uniform and available.
He made his Pirates' debut with a scoreless ninth inning, aided by above-average plays from shortstop Jordy Mercer and right fielder Gregory Polanco.
Hurdle had a chance to talk to Frieri before the game and told him to be ready. Like most managers, Hurdle likes to get new players into a game as soon as possible.
Frieri was having trouble with the Los Angeles Angels and lost the closer spot, as Jason Grilli recently had with the Pirates.
Hurdle's message was that Frieri has a fresh start in Pittsburgh.
"He's got a brand new chalkboard," Hurdle said. "Everything that happened in April, May and June, dig a hole, put it in there and cover it up. Let's go, you're a Pirate now."
The Pirates were willing to take a chance on Frieri because they believe he can be a closer again. He's only 28.
"We're going to let him pitch and see where it goes," Hurdle said.
The Pirates are at the midpoint of the season with a 41-40 record. Last year at this time they were 51-30 and led the National League Central by two games.
Neil Walker has been batting fourth since he came off the disabled list on Tuesday, and Hurdle plans to keep him there.
"He positions best for us at fourth," Hurdle said. "We've tried some other options. He's produced runs. Why would we change right now? We've gotten very good results. I see no need to change."