PITTSBURGH -- After exhausting all 30 days of his Minor League rehabilitation assignment, the Pirates reinstated left-hander Antonio Bastardo from the disabled list on Tuesday and put him back in their bullpen.Pittsburgh optioned catcher Jacob Stallings to Triple-A Indianapolis on Monday. For now, the Pirates will carry an eight-man bullpen
PITTSBURGH -- After exhausting all 30 days of his Minor League rehabilitation assignment, the Pirates reinstated left-hander Antonio Bastardo from the disabled list on Tuesday and put him back in their bullpen.
Pittsburgh optioned catcher Jacob Stallings to Triple-A Indianapolis on Monday. For now, the Pirates will carry an eight-man bullpen and a four-man bench.
"You're going to try to hedge on something," manager Clint Hurdle said. "You can always be second-guessed depending on how the games play out after that. … Let's add the extra arm and see if that can provide us with some help out there."
Bastardo struggled badly before going on the disabled list April 25 with a left quad strain. The veteran lefty allowed 12 runs on 15 hits (including four home runs) and seven walks while striking out five in 6 2/3 innings over six appearances. After a month of recovery followed by a throwing program, he began a rehab assignment with Indianapolis on May 27.
Bastardo said the rehab assignment helped "open up my eyes and figure out the things that I was doing wrong." Specifically, he felt his delivery was too closed and not as direct toward the plate as it should have been.
"When you're in games, you know how to figure out things," he said. "If you feel something weird, like the ball is not getting down in the zone or elevating when you want it, it's easy to figure it out during the games. … That's the one thing that helped me down there. I just feel way much better."
Bastardo remained with Indianapolis for the maximum 30 days allotted to pitchers on rehab assignments. He pitched 11 1/3 innings over 12 appearances and posted a 3.18 ERA despite a 1.68 WHIP, striking out nine and walking eight with two homers allowed. Hurdle said the reports out of Indianapolis suggested Bastardo's fastball velocity improved, as did the sharpness of his slider.
The Pirates have been searching for answers in their bullpen, given the recent ineffectiveness of former closer Tony Watson and former setup man Daniel Hudson. Right-hander Juan Nicasio struggled in Sunday's series finale against the Cardinals, his second rough outing in a 10-day stretch.
The Bucs entered Tuesday with a 4.09 bullpen ERA -- 11th-best in the Majors and fourth in the National League -- but that number jumps to 4.71 without the contributions of lights-out lefty Felipe Rivero.
"He's a guy that's shown some things of being a very competitive and usable Major League pitcher. We've seen some very good things from him at this level," Hurdle said of Bastardo. "He didn't start the way he wanted. That's going to give him an opportunity to help us out in the bullpen, and we could use some help in the bullpen."
After being optioned to Triple-A on June 18, Stallings was recalled Thursday, when the Pirates placed Francisco Cervelli back on the seven-day concussion disabled list. They carried three catchers -- Elias Diaz, Chris Stewart and Stallings -- and Stallings did not play during his most recent stint in the big leagues.
Without the protection of a third catcher, Hurdle can no longer use Diaz as a pinch-hitter as he did recently. Stewart and Diaz will continue to share playing time behind the plate until Cervelli is ready to return.
More Draft signings
The Pirates signed three MLB Draft picks on Tuesday: right-hander Cody Bolton (sixth round), outfielder Chris Sharpe (14th) and infielder Jesse Medrano (31st). Bolton and Medrano will begin their careers with the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Pirates, while Sharpe was assigned to short-season Class A West Virginia.
According to MLBPipeline.com's Jim Callis, Sharpe signed for an over-slot bonus of $256,000. The Pirates have signed 34 of their 42 Draft picks, with third-round third baseman Dylan Busby their highest unsigned selection.
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast.