Hurdle moves bullpen pieces around

By John Mehno

For the Mirror

PITTSBURGH — Clint Hurdle used a day off to do some thinking about the Pirates bullpen, and he decided to make some changes.

Veteran George Kontos is out of the eighth-inning slot after a string of ineffective appearances.

Hurdle said his handling of the eighth inning will depend on game situations “Michael (Feliz) has done a nice job of keeping them off the plate in the seventh, but his pitch efficiency is something we are monitoring,” Hurdle said. “Could he get the eighth inning? He sure could. Could Santana get an eighth inning outing? He sure could.”

Feliz has had success despite inconsistency with his breaking pitch.

“His slider hasn’t come into play like we hoped it would,” Hurdle said. “He’s doing a fantastic job with his fastball, locating that and getting people out, all throughout the lineup in some big situations. “

Hurdle said his decision for an eighth-inning specialist would depend on what part of the opposing lineup is due to bat. He’ll try to counter with a pitcher or pitchers he think could be effective.

“Crick has a (cut fastball) for lefthanders as well as a slider for righthanders,” Hurdle said. “He may be a guy who will be provided an opportunity. Rodriguez (has) a high fastball that can play.”

If anyone seizes the opportunity, the job is open.

“It’s a great opportunity for us together,” Hurdle said. “We’re going to use the whole bullpen to get outs to get to (Felipe) Vazquez.

Hurdle has some basic advice for any pitcher who would like to claim the job.

“Go get some outs,” he said.

Kontos hasn’t been doing enough of that lately. He has been scored upon in three of his last four appearances.

However, Hurdle said the Pirates have not given up on Kontos.

“We’re looking to get him the ball and figure some things out,” Hurdle said.

Taillon ready

Jameson Taillon will make his scheduled start this afternoon in the series finale against the Chicago White Sox.

Taillon’s availability had been in question after he cut his pitching hand in his last start, on Friday. He had to leave the game after just three innings.

In other rotation news, it appears Nick Kingham will come back to make his third major league start Saturday against San Diego.

Kingham was sent back to Class AAA Indianapolis to stay on a regular schedule while the Pirates didn’t need a fifth starter because of off days.

Kingham started for the Curve on Monday.

Joe Musgrove is due to make his last minor league rehab start Friday with Indianapolis. The Pirates want him to throw either six innings or 100 pitches before he’s activated from the disabled list.

Musgrove went on the disabled list in March with a shoulder strain.

His rehab has gone smoothly.

Musgrove’s return could bump Kingham back to the minor leagues.

Mehno can be reached at