Slumping Pirates hitting the road to face St. Louis

PITTSBURGH-Yes, the Pittsburgh Pirates packed bats for their trip to St. Louis.

Whether they do anything with them remains to be seen.

They’ve been wasting good pitching performances by failing to support them offensively. It happened again on Thursday, when Brandon Cumpton became a hard-luck loser in a 2-1 loss to the Cincinnati Reds that ended a dreary 2-6 homestand.

The Pirates move on St. Louis for three games and Baltimore for two more.

They’ll get catcher Russell Martin back in the lineup after missing two games, and that can only help.

The Pirates would only say that Martin had a lower body injury. It appeared he was hurt sliding across the plate with the winning run in Monday’s game.

“I was trying to play through it but I had to ask myself if it was worth it,” Martin said. “Maybe it’s better to take some time and let it get better. I think it was the right thing to do.”

The Pirates are scuffling at the plate, and need all the help they can get right now. Third baseman Pedro Alvarez is batting .178 after Thursday’s 1-for-4 game. He was dropped to fifth in the order for the first time this season and replaced in the cleanup spot by Gaby Sanchez.

Leadoff hitter Starling Marte has 35 strikeouts in 98 at-bats, adding two more strikeouts on Thursday.

Travis Snider has been the more productive part of the right field platoon, and he’s only batting .242. Jose Tabata is hitting .216.

Meanwhile, prospect Gregory Polanco is tearing things up at Class AAA, but it’s doubtful the Pirates will promote him before June.

“Other people are involved in that decision-making process,” Hurdle said. “I know we have some guys down there who we’re interested in. We also have some guys here who need to use the opportunity that’s there, while it’s there.”

If that sounds ominous, it’s probably an accurate reflection of the growing frustration over the slumbering offense.


n Martin could have accepted his MLB-imposed suspension for either of the games he was destined to miss and ended the matter.

But Martin said he wants to fight the penalty, believing it is unjustified.

He’ll get a chance to make his case to MLB officials soon.

n Wandy Rodriguez, who is on the disabled list with inflammation in his knee, threw a bullpen session Thursday and reported no problems.

Rodriguez will accompany the Pirates on the road and is scheduled to throw again on Sunday.

If that goes well, he could make a rehab start for Class AAA Indianapolis by the middle of next week.

Rodriguez is 0-2 with a 7.65 ERA in four starts.

In order to open a roster spot for Cumpton, reliever Jared Hughes was optioned back to Indianapolis. Hughes picked up a win in his brief stay with the Pirates.

n The series against Baltimore will represent the Pirates’ first competition outside of the National League Central this season.

n Travis Ishikawa’s Pirates career was brief.

Designated for assignment when the Pirates acquired first baseman Ike Davis, Ishikawa declined an outright assignment to Indianapolis and opted for free agency.

Ishikawa came to spring training as a non-roster player and won a spot when Andrew Lambo had a terrible camp.