Cole’s return means change coming to 5-man rotation

PITTSBURGH – Gerrit Cole’s return means changes for the Pittsburgh Pirates’ starting rotation.

Manager Clint Hurdle wasn’t ready to reveal his full plan, other than announcing that Cole will come off the disabled list Saturday to start against the New York Mets.

The Pirates will have to make a roster move to open a space for Cole. The three candidates to go to Class AAA Indianapolis – Brandon Cumpton, Jeff Locke and Vance Worley – have all been pitching well for the Pirates.

“We’re in discussions right now about what we’ll do with the rotation,” Hurdle said before Thursday’s homestand opener against the Mets.

It could come down to a matter of expedience, which would probably be bad news for Cumpton. He and Locke can both go back to the minors on an option, and one of them probably will.

Cumpton could be the one to go because he’s righthanded and Locke is a lefthander. Locke’s stay may be temporary, as a move will have to be made when Francisco Liriano comes off the DL.

Worley made his third straight strong start on Thursday.

If Cole comes back on Saturday as scheduled, he will have spent 24 days on the DL due to fatigue in his shoulder. He pitched a simulated game Monday in Tampa, throwing 84 pitches in six innings.

Cole said his problem was just a tired feeling in his arm, and he feels ready to go again. Cole said he’s learned from this experience.

“You file that away and maybe the next time something like that creeps up, you can maybe do something about it a little earlier,” he said.

Cole last pitched in a game on June 3.

Meanwhile, Liriano continues to work on coming back from a strained oblique muscle.

He worked in the bullpen Thursday afternoon, using a windup to throw 30 pitches.

“It went as well as we could hope,” Hurdle said.

Liriano will throw off flat ground today, then have another bullpen session before Sunday’s game.

Marte sits

Left fielder Starling Marte passed his concussion tests, but a finger injury kept him out of Thursday’s lineup.

Marte took a blow to the head when he made a dive into second base during Tuesday’s game in Tampa.

Marte was trying to steal the base, and his head collided with Sean Rodriguez’s knee.

“The neck and head aren’t really an issue,” Hurdle said. “He’s being treated for that right middle finger.”

Josh Harrison replaced Marte in left field for Thursday’s game and threw out a runner at the plate.

Hurdle said he didn’t have any reservations about Harrison’s ability to cover the big left field at PNC Park.

“He has speed and this isn’t the first time he’s been out there,” Hurdle said.

Campaign promise

Hurdle said he will lobby to have Pirates players added to the National League All-Star team.

Hurdle is one of the coaches for the National League team.

He said he will recommend that Neil Walker be selected to back up likely starter Chase Utley.

“(Walker) deserves to be in that conversation, absolutely,” Hurdle said.

He also mentioned set-up reliever Tony Watson as an All-Star candidate.

Late arrival

The Mets didn’t land in Pittsburgh until 3 a.m. on Thursday. Their flight was delayed because of bad weather in New York.