Notes from this afternoon's press scrum:
UPDATE: (6:01) Starling Marte has been scratched from the lineup due to "discomfort in his left rib cage". His status is day to day.
-P- With A.J. Burnett's uncertain injury status, four fifths of the starting rotation that the Pirates left Spring Training with is now unavailable.
-P- Hurdle said that his expectations for Charlie Morton, who is making his first start since May 29, 2012, are that he will get to the "backside" of the game (fifth inning or later).
-P- Tabata is expected back "soon." "Right now the date I have is about a week from now," Hurdle said, "It could move quicker than that. ... His baseball activity has ramped up. ... He's penciled in for the 21st, and if it moves quicker than that, so be it."
-P- Nothing new on Wandy Rodriguez: "He's still down." From a Pirates press release: Rodriguez is "scheduled for throwing program today and tomorrow. Is tentatively scheduled for a side work on Saturday the 15th."
-P- On the offense finally coming back around, Hurdle expressed confidence that this club has a lot more offensive productivity in the tank: "when you crunch the numbers ... what we have here, the facts, we have three guys performing at about standard, we have about nine performing substandard. We're not talking about expectations or hopes, we're talking about what they've done. What their track records indicate. What we're counting on. What we believe, completely, what will happen."
-P- In something of a surprise, at least to me, Jordy Mercer will get the start again tonight at shortstop. With Morton, a ground ball pitcher on the mound, I thought they might opt to go with Barmes for his defense. On whether the start signals that the Pirates might be moving in the direction giving Mercer a real shot to win the starting position, Hurdle made some interesting comments that I'm going to quote in full:
If you keep an eye on the lineup you'll be able to read into what we're trying to do. We're not quitting on anybody; we're not putting anybody aside. There'll be appropriate times for everybody to stay engaged. I do want to pick some spots for Jordy to see some right handers as well. He's handled left-handers very professionally. We know the impact that Barmes has been able to provide for us in the last-year-plus defensively up the middle. We do think there are times where his bat will still come up in play and help us offensively.
We sat down, Neal and I talked, I shared with the staff, if we're going to keep the young man here, the young man's got to play. I got to find opportunities for him to play. To stay engaged. He's got to develop here. This is a completely different situation than it was last year. He's brought more to the table. His confidence level has never been higher. His game is fresh, it's as solid as it's ever been. So we have a lot of confidence.