PITTSBURGH (93-7 THE FAN) – The Pirates made several roster moves before concluding a turbulent 11-game homestand Thursday afternoon against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Relief pitcher Jared Hughes and utility player Yamaico Navarro have been recalled from Indianapolis. To make room, bullpen newcomer Jeff Locke will return to the Bucs’ Triple-A affiliate, while fellow reliever Chad Qualls has been placed on the Pirates’ bereavement list.
Fortunately, it appears none of those moves are directly related to the health of hot-hitting second baseman Neil Walker, who dislocated his right pinky finger in a collision with Dodger infielder Mark Ellis during the first inning of Wednesday’s 9-3 loss.
Manager Clint Hurdle confirmed that Walker will not go on the disabled list. However, Jordy Mercer has come off the bench to replace Walker in the field for Thursday’s 4:05 contest.
Mercer, who is hitting .187 (6-for-36), with three doubles, one homer, and two RBI while appearing in 21 games–primarily at shortstop–will bat second.
This is the fourth call-up of the year for Hughes, who had become a mainstay in middle relief prior to his brief demotion earlier this month. He has worked 56 2/3 innings in 47 appearances, going 2-1 with a 2.70 ERA and 1.18 WHIP. Hughes has recorded 32 strikeouts, 18 walks, and one save with the 2012 Bucs.
Given just a small taste of big-league action, Locke performed commendably in a similar role within the bullpen, pitching 4 1/3 scoreless innings, striking out one, and allowing just one hit in the second MLB stint of his professional career. As a starter in Indy, Locke has gone 9-5 in 21 games in 2012 with a 2.66 ERA and 1.22 WHIP, along with 113 K’s and 38 walks.
Navarro, who came over from the Kansas City Royals’ farm system in the off-season, hit .178 (8-for-45) in 25 games off Hurdle’s bench before getting sent down May 29. He hit one home run and drove in four. In 60 games with Indianapolis, Navarro has batted .275 with a .359 on-base and .490 slugging percentage to go with eight homers and 32 RBI.
For some added perspective, the .849 OPS is around that of Triple-A catcher Jeff Clement, and is actually greater than that of outfielder Starling Marte prior to Marte’s promotion.
Qualls, acquired July 31 from the Yankees, in exchange for first baseman Casey McGehee, has struck out three and allowed five earned runs in just 5 2/3 innings for the Pirates, appearing in seven games.
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