Pirates getting players back from DL
PITTSBURGH — Reliever George Kontos returned to the Pirates’ active roster on Thursday, and two more players are expected to come off the disabled list for tonight’s game in St. Louis.
Outfielder Gregory Polanco and utilityman Adam Frazier should be ready to come back tonight.
Polanco may be in the starting lineup against the Cardinals as manager Clint Hurdle decides how to handle his expanded roster for the last month of the season.
Andrew McCutchen is expected to get tonight’s game off, so Polanco is likely to start after his third stint on the disabled list because of hamstring issues.
“I’m probably going to juggle it a bit,” Hurdle said. “We’re probably not going to extend days played for either Adam or Gregory at this time. It might be a game in, a game out.”
Since Polanco and Frazier have been out, rookie Jordan Luplow has also made his way into the mix.
“I do anticipate wanting to find time for Luplow and also getting Gregory in position to finish with offensive swing and defensive mobility,” Hurdle said.
This has been largely a lost season for Polanco, who had one productive burst in the second half of the season. He is hitting .255 with 10 home runs and a paltry 32 runs batted in. His OPS is .718.
He had a strong showing in the World Baseball Classic, but failed to build on that. He batted .247 in April with a .671 OPS.
Frazier will contend for playing time with Max Moroff, who has replaced the injured Josh Harrison at second base. The Pirates have also re-acquired Sean Rodriguez, who has already played seven different positions since he returned.
The plan for Kontos is to use him as one of the prime set-up relievers now that Juan Nicasio is gone.
Hurdle has indicated he’d like to try Kontos in eighth-inning situations. Daniel Hudson has struggled in those situations.
“(Kontos) is a guy who can work through the middle of the lineup,” Hurdle said. :He has a cutter for some lefthanders. He’s got a slider that’s been his go-to pitch for years. He’s got a change-up that we really liked watching him throw in the bullpen. Maybe we can get him to throw it a little bit more.”
Kontos tested his readiness with a simulated game on Tuesday. He recovered well from that, reporting no problems with the groin strain that put him on the disabled list.
“I wanted to face some hitters and make sure I was mentally and physically ready to go,” Kontos said. “Once that went well, I think I’m pretty good to jump back in for whatever situation.”
Kontos has been out since Aug. 19.
n Hurdle said the Pirates are monitoring Jameson Taillon in the last month because there’s no real template for a pitcher with his circumstances.
Taillon missed a season after Tommy John ligament replacement surgery, then was knocked out again by a groin injury. He had this season interrupted by surgery for testicular cancer.
“We’re using our eyes because this is all uncharted territory,” Hurdle said. “There’s nobody who’s had a career like this.”
Hurdle said he isn’t sure if the Pirates will formally switch to a six-man rotation, but they are conscious of building in down time for their inexperienced starters.
“We need to talk with these guys about taking a break based on the workload,” he said. “Jameson is one guy who I think is going to sleep well this winter. He’s poured everything he has into this, personally and professionally.
“There’s going to be a day where it’s going to be good to sit down in the chair and say, whoa, what did I just go through?”
n The Pirates start a three-city trip tonight in St. Louis. They’ll also play in Milwaukee and Cincinnati before starting the season’s final homestand on Monday, Sept. 18.
Mehno can be reached at email@example.com