PITTSBURGH -- Other than the huge, padded cast on his right arm and bandages on his left leg -- from where the tendon was taken and transplanted into his right elbow during Tommy John surgery last week -- Charlie Morton looked great."I'm dealing with it OK emotionally," Morton said in the Pirates' PNC Park clubhouse early Thursday afternoon. "It will be a long, slow process. But it will be all right." Morton will begin that arduous comeback process this weekend. He is due to depart on Sunday for Bradenton, Fla., to begin the preliminary part of his rehab at Pirate City. The stitches from his elbow are expected to come out in about a week, at which point he will be able to slightly step up his activity.
Presley, Jones back in lineup vs. right-hander
PITTSBURGH -- After facing left-handed starters in the first two games of the series with the Twins, the Pirates were able to return to their righty lineup for Thursday night's matchup.That meant left fielder Alex Presley back atop the batting order, and Garrett Jones back in right field and in the cleanup spot. One possible problem: Minnesota rookie right-hander Liam Hendriks prepared for his 10th Major League start with some upside-down splits. (And, no, that isn't referencing his origins from Down Under, Australia.) Right-handed batters had battered him for a .452 average, while lefties were hitting a modest .263 against the 23-year-old. Other than attributing Hendriks' woes to probably falling behind too many right-handed hitters, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle waved off the splits as an influence on setting the lineup. "I have to look for opportunities to get guys involved," said Hurdle, mindful that Presley and Jones both have had only one pinch-hitting appearance since last weekend's series in Cleveland. "I don't see anything that says they can't hit [Hendriks]. That's a lineup I feel confident throwing out there." In that lineup, Pedro Alvarez remained in his latest, most productive spot: the six-hole. Alvarez had been there for only 16 of his first 59 games, yet exactly half of his 12 homers and 34 RBIs had come from that niche. "He's in a good spot now," Hurdle said. "And we've got guys in the middle holding their own as well. We'll see where they can take it."
Pirates may be looking to make deal for offense
PITTSBURGH -- The Bucs' hunt for reinforcements is on. And there don't seem to be any hidden agendas for a team with the National League's worst offense (according to runs scored) and its third-best pitching staff (per ERA)."We'd like to first look for ways to impact the offense," said manager Clint Hurdle, who has huddled this week with GM Neal Huntington to discuss possible moves, both internally and externally. "We do feel like we're in a competitive position on the mound. We do have a couple of areas where we've got some surplus, some depth that might be attractive to somebody else." That is managerial code for swapping pitching for punch. It is never that simple, obviously, and it could be weeks before current wallflowers hit the dance floor. "What you want versus what you can get or what's available -- who wants to dance with you, finding a match -- those things all come into play," Hurdle said. "Most teams right now are holding everything close to the vest. Around July 4, things might heat up a little bit. Everyone then will have a better indicator." The Bucs' pitching depth certainly is not as profound as it was before Charlie Morton underwent Tommy John surgery. But Jeff Karstens is one rehab start from returning, Chris Leroux (strained pectoral muscle) also nears coming off the 60-day disabled list, and there is a phalanx of strong arms backed up in Triple-A (Rudy Owens, Justin Wilson, Jeff Locke).
D. McCutchen returns from DL, heads to Triple-A
PITTSBURGH -- Right-handed relief pitcher Daniel McCutchen has been reinstated from the 15-day DL and optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis, the Pirates announced Thursday.McCutchen was dealing with a strained left oblique. He has not pitched for the Pirates in 2012. In 14 appearances with Indianapolis this season, McCutchen is 3-2 with a 2.19 ERA. He's pitched 24 2/3 innings, striking out 16 and walking eight over that span.
One of the side-effects of the Pirates' recent offensive breakout is that closer Joel Hanrahan has not had a save opportunity since picking up No. 17 on June 9 -- 10 games and five wins ago.
"It's kinda tough to get saves when we're scoring nine runs a game. But that's totally cool, as long as we're winning," Hanrahan said. James McDonald whittled his ERA from 2.32 to 2.19 in his first career complete game. That inched him up from fifth to fourth among National League leaders. Casey McGehee (1-for-4) has a nine-game hitting streak during which he's hit .371 (13-for-35).
Quote to note
"Every player I've ever talked to says this opportunity had a dramatic impact on them. The experience gained from it should do nothing but help them move forward."
-- Manager Clint Hurdle, on the selections of right-handed prospects Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon to the United States Team for next month's Sirius XM All-Star Futures Game.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. Mark Emery is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.