Bucs giving Masterson a look
PITTSBURGH – The Pirates have signed another player who has followed success with difficult times.
Right-hander Justin Masterson, 31, will join the pitching staff at Class AAA Indianapolis after Thursday’s signing.
Masterson was an All-Star with Cleveland in 2013, but has struggled since then. The Pirates become his fourth organization in three years.
Masterson had shoulder surgery last September, about a month after the Boston Red Sox released him. Masterson was paid $9.5 million last season. He had a showcase for interested teams in the offseason but went unsigned until Thursday.
At minimum, the Pirates are hoping he can bounce back and add organizational pitching depth.
An imposing figure at 6-foot-6 and 260 pounds, Masterson’s best season was 2013 when he was 14-10 for Cleveland with a 4.35 earned run average and 1.202 WHIP. He struck out 195 batters in 193 innings.
Over the last two seasons, though, his ERA is 5.79.
Despite his size, Masterson is not known as a power pitcher but rather a ground ball specialist.
The Pirates got a scare in the sixth inning when Jordan Zimmerman’s line drive hit Gerrit Cole in the head, knocking his cap off.
Cole stayed on the ground for a minute, but seemed to be more stunned than hurt. After being evaluated by trainer Ben Potenziano and throwing a couple of practice pitches, Cole stayed in the game.
“It didn’t get me that good,” Cole said.
He said he had a similar incident while pitching for Curve in 2012 and came away from that with no damage.
“You catch your breath,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “A guy goes down like that and it’s an absolute yard sale.”
Reliever Rob Scahill was recalled from Indianapolis and the Pirates put lefthander Cory Luebke on the disabled list with right hamstring tightness.
The Pirates wanted to recall Scahill a day earlier, but he was on paternity leave. They called up A.J. Schugel instead.
Scahill pitched in Thursday’s game and allowed two runs in one inning.
The Pirates’ bullpen has been struggling lately, allowing close games to get out of reach.
Case in point was Thursday, when the Pirates scored three runs in the sixth to draw within one run of the Detroit Tigers. But usually-reliable Tony Watson then allowed three runs in the eighth and the gap widened again.
“He just didn’t locate a couple of pitches,” Hurdle said.
Former No. 1 draft pick Jameson Taillon was solid in his first start for Indianapolis eon Wednesday
He pitched six innings, allowing five hits and one run with no walks and six strikeouts.
Hurdle said one of his first priorities on Thursday was checking the minor league report to see what Taillon had done.
He sent him a message, which he said was, “Well done. Continue.”
Taillon has missed the last two seasons, the first because of elbow ligament replacement surgery. When he was working on his comeback last season, he developed a sports hernia and needed surgery.
Tonight’s game against Milwaukee will be part of MLB’s annual Jackie Robinson Day.
Every uniform for both teams will bear Robinson’s No. 42, which has been retired throughout MLB.
Mehno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.