Bucs using many players

PITTSBURGH-The Pirates are nominally in the wild card race, so that’s familiar territory.

But they’re in a different role after reaching the wild card round for three straight years.

“We were being chased more often than not in those three seasons, especially last year,” manager Clint Hurdle said.

“This year we’re chasing. So from that aspect, it’s a lot different. However, the fact being the mindset, the battle, the focus and preparation are similar in a lot of ways. We’re just not in the same position in the standings.”

Indeed, the Pirates found themselves behind three teams at the start of business on Saturday.

They were also under .500, the latest they’ve been below that marker this late in the season since 2012.

It’s been a different kind of year. Perhaps that is best illustrated by the fact that Drew Hutchison became the 51st player to appear in a game this season, and the 13th pitcher to start a game.

The Pirates used eight starting pitchers last season.

By the way, the Pirates’ leader is games started is still Francisco Liriano, who was traded to Toronto on July 31. He started 21 games. Gerrit Cole will tie him when he starts Monday’s game in Philadelphia.

Cole’s preparation has been focused on repeating his delivery.

“It’s something I’ve been struggling with all year,” he said.

Although most of the pitchers called up by the Pirates this season have been rookies, that’s not the case with Hutchison.

Saturday’s game was his 74th major league start. He debuted with the Blue Jays in 2012 and has already reached arbitration eligibility.

Returning soon

Rookie Chad Kuhl, whose turn was skipped this time, will be back in the rotation for his next turn.

He is listed to start Thursday’s game in Philadelphia.

Leading the way

Hurdle regularly convenes meetings of the leadership council he’s assembled among the players.

He said on Saturday that sometimes those designated leaders take matters into their own hands as well.

“There have been more challenges,” he said. “They continue to show up and work with one another. They’ll come back and say, ‘Hey, we had a talk with so-and-so.’ Good teams do it. We’ve done it before. It’s not just this year.

“I played on some clubs where there was some real good feedback. You’d have interactions in the dugout. We’re encouraging that more and more here.”

First steps

Hurdle said that pitchers Neftali Feliz and A.J. Schugel were both able to play catch on Saturday.

Both are dealing with arm issues. Hurdle said both pitchers, “felt better.”

“That’s all I have right now,” Hurdle said.

Starling Marte sat out another start with back spasms.

“He was walking better last night,” Hurdle said. “We’ll try to find out a little more and see if he’s available off the bench tonight.”

Mehno can be reached at johnmehnocolumn@gmail.com