Neal Huntington held his weekly press meeting prior to the Pirates taking on the Brewers this afternoon at PNC Park. Obviously, the statuses of Gerrit Cole and Charlie Morton were the main topics of interest. He also discussed the draft, which Charlie covered here, and Gregory Polanco.
The most important takeaway was that the tests the Pirates have performed on Cole's shoulder have shown no structural damage. "They confirm (only) shoulder fatigue at this point," Huntington said.
Huntington repeated no fewer than five times that Cole came to the team and made them "aware" that he "didn't feel right ... a little tired."
Once Cole told the club, the Pirates "hit hard with some treatments." When it was clear that his next scheduled start was in jeopardy, Huntington said, "We felt it was probably better to get aggressive with it now, get ahead of it, give him a little bit of down time and get that fatigue out of [the shoulder]."
"If everything goes as planned, he'll come right back out after the DL stint. But, if we need more time, we'll need more time."
Asked if the club noticed any warning signs before Cole informed the team of his fatigue, Huntington mentioned a lack of efficiency and pitching with men on base. Those factors, along with starting two games near his home on the last road trip, added to the club's overall concerns about his pitching stress level.
With emerging questions about whether Charlie Morton was also suffering from arm problems and may miss his next start, Huntington said that he was "not aware of" any plans for him not to pitch tomorrow.
Huntington explained the rationale behind moving Morton's start back a day as simply an opportunity for him to get an extra day's rest.
"Jeff was lined up to go and skipped a start [with Indianapolis]," Huntington said. "You don't want a pitcher to go too long without starting, and anytime you can give your guys an extra day through the process, we like to give our guys an extra day. This gets Jeff a little bit closer to on schedule and gives Charlie an extra day, which is a good thing as well."
Huntington said that they like to give young players a lot of at bats in Triple-A, but that Polanco's performance is "shortening that time frame a little bit."
When he does come up, Huntington suggested that the team would like to bat him down in the order, placing him in a "less demanding ... less high-leverage hole."
Where he ultimately ends up in the lineup may depend on Harrison's continued offensive production at the top of the order.
"It is hard to take that spark plug out of the top of your lineup," Huntington said. "And that would be a great thing. To be able to drop Gregory into a less demanding role. That's what the Cardinals have done for years."
"If Josh continues to play the way he has, and our offense continues to roll the way it has the last five to six weeks, Gregory may be a guy, not have to be the guy."