Pirates must do better than 0-5 on road trip

PITTSBURGH-The Pittsburgh Pirates packed up and left PNC Park Sunday afternoon following a successful 6-3 homestand.

They now start a three-city, 10-game trip that will keep them away from home until Sept. 12.

The trip begins with a 2 p.m. holiday game in St. Louis today.

“We’ve got to match up and go,” manager Clint Hurdle said.

The Pirates’ last trip was a failure, a 0-5 journey through Detroit and Washington. That knocked them back in the division race, although they were able to make up some of that ground on the homestand.

After an open date on Thursday, the Pirates play a weekend series in Chicago, then conclude the trip with four games in Philadelphia.

The next homestand – nine games against the Cubs, Boston Red Sox and Milwaukee – is the last of the season.

Help on the way

The Pirates will begin adding players today as part of the Sept. 1 roster expansion.

Pitchers Gerrit Cole and Jeff Locke will be added to the roster, as both were technically optioned to minor league affiliates to temporarily clear roster spots for others.

Gregory Polanco will also be recalled.

“We look forward to getting him back,” general manager Neal Huntington said. “If we’re going to play October baseball, Gregory Polanco is going to have a hand in that.”

The Pirates will also add another catcher, likely Tony Sanchez, along with pitchers who can help in the bullpen.

But Huntington indicated on Sunday there will be some unexpected omissions from the list of call-ups.

“There will be some surprises,” Huntington said. “There will be some people scratching their heads.”

Teams like to bring up role players to add depth. In the past, the Pirates have effectively used call-ups to fill roles like pinch runners.

But it’s possible to overdo things, too.

“You can have too many,” Hurdle said.

That happened to the Pirates in 1991. Manager Jim Leyland complained that he wasn’t getting enough help from the minor leagues, and general manager Larry Doughty responded by filling the roster to the 40-man capacity.

There weren’t enough lockers in the clubhouse at Three Rivers Stadium, so some players were dressing off a rack that was placed in the middle of the room.

The philosophy of calling up players has changed as the team’s record has improved.

“Our first three, four or even five years here, September call-ups were about opportunities and reward, guys who were getting a chance to see if they belonged on next year’s club,” Huntington said. “This year’s call-ups and last year’s are about getting a player skill set Clint can use to win a game.”

Huntington’s attempts to add players via trades did not deliver. He said that some desirable players didn’t clear waivers and that the players who did clear would not be an upgrade for the Pirates.

Sunday was the deadline for acquiring players and having them eligible for the postseason roster.

SUBHEAD: Morton update

Charlie Morton threw 35 pitches in the bullpen Sunday morning, and continues to be bothered by a sports hernia that causes a feeling of tightness.

Hurdle said Morton would throw a simulated game on Tuesday.

“We’ll keep him going and keep his arm in play,” Hurdle said. “We’ll see if there’s any improvement.”