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Pregame: Clint Hurdle discusses five-man rotation, player rest

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Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Auditions are over

Unless the Pirates' postseason picture suddenly becomes clearer, Clint Hurdle reaffirmed that the club will move to a five-man rotation in the near future. Exactly when it will become a firm five-man and who the fifth starter will be are still somewhat unknown. Odds are, though, that Jeff Locke will move into a different role and the five-man rotation will start Saturday in Los Angeles.

"We are going to morph, I believe, into a five (man rotation)," Hurdle said. "But it is going to depend on how this whole thing plays out. And I don't see any need whatsoever to map it out now based on where we are and what our games mean."

Hurdle revealed the following schedule of probables through next Tuesday:

Day Pitcher
Today Jeff Locke
Sunday Francisco Liriano
Tuesday (CHC) DH Gerrit Cole, J.A. Happ
Wednesday A.J. Burnett
Thursday Charlie Morton
Friday (@LAD) Locke
Saturday Liriano
Sunday Cole
Monday (@COL) Burnett
Tuesday Happ

The way it works out, Happ will receive extended rest following Tuesday's game and either Locke or Morton will pitch Wednesday. If Locke is swapped out, then Morton would pitch in Colorado with an extra day's rest.

When asked if he had decided on the five pitchers, or if the next few starts were part of a continuing auditioning process, Hurdle was unequivocal: "No, we have a good idea. We've watched our guys pitch a lot this year."

Rest and lineups

Across the league, players, coaches and front office staff are increasingly sensitive to and aware of how player energy relates to performance drop-off and extended injuries. As such, organizations are increasingly seeking a competitive advantage by finding new ways to proactively identify and combat fatigue.

Throughout the season, Hurdle has discussed some of the advanced programs the Pirates have in place to measure and address player fatigue. And with Jung-ho Kang receiving a day off today and "another guy or two" getting a day off tomorrow, it is clear that the club doesn't intend to deviate from the program, regardless of the importance of each game down the stretch.

"I rely upon a lot of people here who have more knowledge of rest and work loads and reps," Hurdle said, when asked how he balances the urgency of the situation with the player's need for rest. "We have some metrics we use, as well. So, I just accumulate the information and talk [to the trainers] personally. ...We've tracked it from the beginning of the season. It was one of our objectives."

As much faith as the team is showing in their program, however, Hurdle admitted they haven't perfected it yet.

"We're still working through trying to come up with a better metric program along the lines of purposeful rest." Hurdle said. "It's still a work in progress. We don't want to just sell out to the name of the back of the jersey where he has to play every inning and get every at-bat."

Marte out

Starling Marte is a late scratch for tonight's game, due to stomach flu. Josh Harrison will play left field and bat second.