PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates on Sunday activated veteran reliever Juan Cruz from the 15-day disabled list and optioned rookie reliever Jared Hughes to Triple-A Indianapolis."This really doesn't have to do with performance. This has to do with [roster space]," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said Sunday of the decision to demote Hughes. "Cruz is coming off today. We've got to get Cruz back involved to see where he can take this next opportunity." Cruz, who has been sidelined since July 18 with right shoulder inflammation, has gone 1-1 with a 2.61 ERA and is averaging 9.3 strikeouts per nine innings in 37 appearances with Pittsburgh this season. The 33-year-old right-hander made two rehab appearances at Double-A Altoona, giving up a combined two runs on five hits in 1 1/3 innings. Hughes, 27, has been a valuable component of the Pirates' bullpen this season. He has appeared in 47 games, tops on the team, and his 56 2/3 innings pitched lead the relief corps. He has posted a 2-1 record and 2.70 ERA. After giving up six combined runs in three outings, Hughes bounced back nicely against the Padres on Saturday night. He entered the game in the sixth inning with two outs and the bases loaded. He got himself out of the jam by inducing a flyout to right field and went on to throw two more scoreless innings. "I think I made the adjustments needed yesterday, and went out, pitched well," Hughes said Sunday, shortly before leaving the clubhouse. "I made the adjustments to where I think that I can just continue doing that for the next few weeks. [I'll] go down there, stay positive, and earn another callup." Hughes did not seem at all bitter about the demotion and insisted that he's healthy. Hurdle said it's possible that Hughes could be back in the big leagues before Sept. 1, when active rosters expand to 40 players. "Right now, dependability is as important as anything," Hurdle said. "We're optimistic that his downtime now can give him a breath of fresh air, and he can get after it, like we saw early [in] April and May and even through early June. "The bullpen effectiveness that we have, he's been a big part of that because he's pitched multiple roles and he's carried his workload -- more than a fair share of his workload."
Snider sits out Sunday with tight hamstring
PITTSBURGH -- Travis Snider did not start in right field on Sunday, a day after he left with tightness in his right hamstring.Snider wasn't overly concerned about the issue following the game, and Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said Sunday that he heard the discomfort had improved overnight. "They've had treatment," Hurdle said. "They say he feels better today than last night. I've not talked to him personally." While Snider was not in the starting lineup, Hurdle is "banking on the fact that he's going to be available off the bench." In 11 games with Pittsburgh, Snider is batting .333 with five RBIs and one home run. The right fielder was acquired at the Trade Deadline from Toronto in exchange for relief pitcher Brad Lincoln.
Constructing bullpen always challenge for Hurdle
PITTSBURGH -- On a day his club demoted an effective, young reliever to make room for a veteran returning from injury, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle was reminded just how difficult it can be to effectively manage a bullpen over the course of a season.The club announced on Sunday that it had reinstated Juan Cruz from the disabled list, and that his return had forced the decision to option Jared Hughes to Triple-A Indianapolis. Before Hurdle addressed the move, though, he admitted that handling the relief corps is one of his more trying duties. "That has been one of the most challenging parts every year, is constructing that bullpen and going through the season with the different guys that might be coming and going, whether it might be injury, whether it be lack of performance, however it works," Hurdle said. "You've got seven working men out there that all have individual responsibility from day to day," he said. "That can change. They are going to always want to represent the bullpen and take the ball. So, you've got to develop relationships that are transparent and trusting, because you need accurate information." Because too few relievers are completely honest about needing time off, it's to a manager's benefit to get to know each man individually, and that includes understanding his body language. Hurdle said he makes an effort to spend time with his players that goes beyond routine health checks. "If it's all mechanical, your relationship becomes mechanical," Hurdle said. "It's just part of managing people, and developing that relationship, and each one's individual, and each one has its importance. They all matter out there. "Now, it's getting the read of how much work you believe they can handle and stay effective, because they'll all take on more. It's hard for them to get to that point in their career where they'll say, 'I need a day.' Usually, it's an older guy, a veteran guy that knows he needs a day."
The Pirates have surrendered at least one run in the first inning in each of their last five games, and have given up first-inning homers in three straight. Overall, the club has been outscored 77-56 and its pitchers have been taken deep 21 times in the first inning this season. Andrew McCutchen enters Sunday's game against San Diego without a hit in his last nine at-bats, which ties his longest streak without a hit this season.
Mark Emery is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.