LOS ANGELES -- Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli was cleared to play in Minor League games, and he will begin a rehab assignment on Thursday with Double-A Altoona. Director of sports medicine Todd Tomczyk said on Wednesday that Cervelli has made "remarkable improvements" in his return from a concussion.Cervelli went through
LOS ANGELES -- Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli was cleared to play in Minor League games, and he will begin a rehab assignment on Thursday with Double-A Altoona. Director of sports medicine Todd Tomczyk said on Wednesday that Cervelli has made "remarkable improvements" in his return from a concussion.
Cervelli went through full workouts with Altoona on Monday and Tuesday, Tomczyk said.
"He's in a good spot," Tomczyk said.
Cervelli has been sidelined since June 21. He was Pittsburgh's most productive hitter before going on the disabled list, slashing .257/.390/.486 with nine home runs in 55 games. Tomczyk previously said Cervelli's concussion was due to a "cumulative effect," not one specific incident.
Kuhl undergoes MRI
Right-hander Chad Kuhl had an MRI and other tests in Pittsburgh as part of "the most definitive look at the majority of the structures in the forearm and elbow," Tomczyk said. Doctors recommended conservative treatment, not surgery, after diagnosing Kuhl with a muscle strain in his right forearm.
"He's had multiple opinions," Tomczyk said. "We're getting all parties included so Chad is comfortable and we're comfortable with the prognosis morning forward."
Kuhl, on the 10-day DL after exiting his June 26 start early, has been working out but not throwing. He is still feeling soreness in his forearm, Tomczyk said, and the Pirates want to make sure he is symptom-free before he attempts to play catch.
• Infielder Jungho Kang (left wrist sprain) was seen by a hand surgeon in Pittsburgh on Tuesday. He will be shut down from hitting and gripping activities for the next 10 days, Tomczyk said.
Kang rejoined the Triple-A Indianapolis club and will continue to take part in conditioning exercises while his left wrist remains in a splint. Tomczyk said Kang is dealing with a soft-tissue injury caused by a "build-up over time," not one specific play or swing.
• Reliever Michael Feliz (right shoulder inflammation) is ready to pitch in a simulated game this weekend, Tomczyk said. Feliz remains with the Pirates and recently threw a bullpen session.
• Right-hander A.J. Schugel, on the 60-day DL with shoulder discomfort, is scheduled to throw off the slope of the mound next week. Schugel has not pitched for the Pirates this season.
• Lefty Nik Turley is also on the 60-day DL with an elbow sprain after serving an 80-game suspension. Tomczyk said Turley felt discomfort in his arm while pitching in an extended spring game in Bradenton, Fla.
The Pirates recalled left-hander Josh Smoker from Triple-A Indianapolis before Wednesday's series finale at Dodger Stadium. The Bucs had an open spot on their roster after placing starter Joe Musgrove (right index finger infection) on the disabled list on Tuesday. The lefty pitched a scoreless eighth inning in the Pirates' 6-4 loss, giving up one walk while recording one strikeout.
Smoker made the Pirates' Opening Day roster but struggled out of the gate, recording a 2.75 WHIP in five appearances. He was optioned to Triple-A on April 13 and fared better with Indianapolis, posting a 2.59 ERA and 1.05 WHIP with 35 strikeouts in 28 appearances.
Smoker took four days off after being sent down and worked to smooth out his delivery. He said his fastball velocity steadily improved and his confidence quickly returned as a result.
"It was a good way to mentally reset everything," Smoker said.
Marte returns to lineup
Center fielder Starling Marte started on Wednesday after being out of the lineup for three straight games. Marte hit well early on this season, slashing .308/.366/.503 in his first 41 games, but he was batting just .198 with a .585 OPS since returning from an oblique strain on May 26. Looking to get him back on track, manager Clint Hurdle gave Marte time off to work on his swing.
"Sometimes I feel like I'm back to when we started the season. Other times, it's like, I don't know," Marte said. "I'm continuing to work in the cage with the hitting coach to try to help a little bit more. We'll see what happens."
The work appeared to pay off on Wednesday, as Marte went 2-for-4 with a two-run double in the third and a single that set up Gregory Polanco's two-run homer in the eighth.
"Very good. Lot of work was done," Hurdle said. "I thought he took some good swings today."
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.