Pregame: Tony Watson unavailable, Bryan Morris working on fastball command

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Some notes from the Pirates' clubhouse this afternoon:

-P- Wandy Rodriguez (forearm) threw 35 pitches in batting practice today. Clint Hurdle said that, while "sharp is a relative term" for a pitcher making a return from injury, Rodriguez was satisfied with how things went today. Hurdle said Rodriguez might still be able to make a minor-league rehab start, even though the minor-league season will be over in a couple weeks.

-P- Tony Watson, after pitching three innings yesterday, is unavailable today. The team is unlikely to use Bryan Morris, who pitched 1.1 innings yesterday, unless they absolutely have to. Hurdle was "optimistic" that Justin Wilson, who only threw 11 pitches yesterday, would be able to pitch if needed.

-P- I asked Hurdle why Morris' strikeout rate has been so low this year. "Compared to what?" Hurdle asked. "Minor-league numbers?"

I shrugged a yes.

"Pretty much just stay right there," Hurdle said. "What you're seeing now is a guy that's actually learning how to pitch effectively at the major-league level. ... [A]s his four-seam fastball command continues to improve, I think you'll see those numbers ramp incrementally. But that's been one of the challenges throughout his career. He's had excellent command of his cutter. He's got a wipeout breaking ball. ... The pitches are there to get swing-and-miss stuff, but you also saw a guy that walked a guy with one out yesterday. So the four-seam fastball command is the last piece of the puzzle for him."

-P- Unsurprisingly, Hurdle responded to a question about Gerrit Cole by saying Cole's start was bumped back primarily to "be smart" about the number of innings and pitches Cole will be able to throw this season.

-P- Hurdle advised everyone to calm down about recent reports regarding potential changes to replay rules. "We live in a society [where], no matter what's done, there's still people picking it apart," Hurdle said. "'[I]n the 19-inning game, if you've already used your appeals, you couldn't say anything about the McKenry play!' Stop. We're trying to do the best thing for the game and the integrity of the game. They've put more thought into this than you could even imagine."

-P- Michael McKenry was in the Pirates' clubhouse on crutches today, shaking hands with his teammates. It didn't seem like they'd seen him in awhile. McKenry suffered a season-ending knee injury in July.

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