Pregame: Morton set to pitch tomorrow ... 'as of today'

Denis Poroy

Notes from this afternoon's press meeting with Clint Hurdle:

Jeff Locke set to start today, Charlie Morton tomorrow

Hurdle said that there are "zero" circumstances "as of today" in which the rotation plans for the next two days will change.

Hurdle explained that the reasoning behind moving Morton's start back a day was so that he could get "extra bullpen work."

"Based on his last effort, give him a chance to refine his delivery, refocus on commitment to sinker," Hurdle said. "The extra bullpen work ... the sinker has got to play for him."

Starling Marte returns to the lineup

After a four-game absence from the starting lineup, Starling Marte will play left field and bat seventh this afternoon.

"I don't think you're going to handpick a perfect day." Hurdle said. "You just need to have a day. You just need to choose a day and run him out there and let him go."

Hurdle described Marte as "itching to play." "This is the first time he's not played for [four] games, without being hurt."

Gaby Sanchez starts over Ike Davis ... for the next three games

After a excellent month of May (.862 OPS), Ike Davis has scuffled so far in June (.231 OPS in 26 plate appearances). As a result, Hurdle said he anticipates "running Gaby out there the next three days and giving Ike some down time." Hurdle added that Davis is "working on some things," and that today's matchup against Yovani Gallardo is a "good one" for Sanchez (who is .267/.353/.533 in 34 lifetime plate appearances against Gallardo).

Sanchez will bat fourth this afternoon.

Signs of Cole's fatigue

Hurdle said that there were many indicators that signaled to him there might be an issue with Cole. Fastball velocity, particularly in the later innings of his last start, "was down on the list," Hurdle said.

The indicators he mentioned, and encouraged the press to look at, were pitches per inning, strike percentage and pitches out of the stretch/wind up.

So, here they are: 2013 / 2014

Pitches per inning = 14.7 / 15.7

Strike percentage = 65.1 / 64.2

Percentage of innings pitched with men on = 39 / 43

Neal Huntington describes' Pirates draft approach

The Pirates took an unusual approach in the early rounds of the draft on Thursday, taking Arizona high school shortstop Cole Tucker with the No. 24 overall pick even though draft experts rated him much lower and then grabbing University of San Diego outfielder Connor Joe at No. 39 even though experts rated him much lower as well. With the last two picks of the day, the Pirates took two high school pitchers, Mitch Keller and Trey Supak, hoping to sign them away from commitments to UNC and Houston, respectively.

Neal Huntington defended that approach today. "Cole Tucker is an exciting, young, athletic shortstop [who] has skills on both sides of the ball," Huntington said. "Connor Joe was one of the better college bats on the board, in our minds."

Keller and Supak, meanwhile, "have the traits that we look for," Huntington said. "Great frames, they're athletic ... they have the makings of quality secondary stuff."

Huntington added that the Pirates took what they believed was the best player available with each pick.

Charlie Wilmoth contributed to this post.

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