PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates are pulling George Kontos out of the eighth-inning role after the setup man's shaky start to the season. For now, they'll go with a bullpen-by-committee approach to set up closer Felipe Vazquez."We're basically going to use the bullpen to get outs to get to Vazquez without
PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates are pulling George Kontos out of the eighth-inning role after the setup man's shaky start to the season. For now, they'll go with a bullpen-by-committee approach to set up closer Felipe Vazquez.
"We're basically going to use the bullpen to get outs to get to Vazquez without anybody being anointed an eighth-inning guy," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said before Tuesday's game against the White Sox.
Kontos put together a strong finish to last season in the Pirates' bullpen and entered the year as their unquestioned eighth-inning reliever. The veteran right-hander has struggled so far this season, though, particularly of late, posting a 4.58 ERA and 1.42 WHIP while seeing his strikeout rate plummet to 8.9 percent. Opponents have scored on Kontos in three of his last four outings.
"He's done nothing but get outs and pitch every inning that he's been asked to pitch for I don't know how many years," Hurdle said. "This may be the first time he's faced some challenges not getting outs and keeping people off the plate, truthfully. He's looking to get the ball. We're looking to get him the ball and figure some things out."
The Pirates won't promote one pitcher into that role, Hurdle said. Michael Feliz, Edgar Santana, Kyle Crick and Richard Rodriguez all figure to work in more high-leverage situations, but the Pirates will let matchups dictate which innings those relievers pitch. Feliz might be more likely to face a series of right-handed batters in the eighth, for instance, while Santana's changeup could make him a better fit if the inning presents a series of lefty hitters.
"I don't see us naming an eighth-inning pitcher right now," Hurdle said. "You look at where the lineup's going to be. You look at the part of the lineup we're going to face."
• Jameson Taillon will start Wednesday against the White Sox as scheduled, Hurdle said. Taillon sustained a cut on his right middle finger that forced him to leave his last outing after three innings. Taillon said on Sunday that he was mentally preparing to pitch and played catch on Tuesday.
• Joe Musgrove will make another rehab start on Friday with Triple-A Indianapolis, planning to throw six innings and/or 100 pitches. If his pitch-efficient progress continues, general manager Neal Huntington joked, "It might be seven and 94." That would put Musgrove in line to join the Pirates' rotation on May 23 (on regular rest) or shortly thereafter.
• Josh Harrison (left hand fracture) played seven innings for Double-A Altoona on Monday, the first day of his rehab assignment, going 0-for-3 with a walk. Hurdle said Harrison is scheduled to play nine innings in his next start and another nine-inning game before the Pirates re-evaluate his status. Harrison had the day off on Tuesday.
• Nick Kingham, who won each of his first two Major League starts, pitched Monday for Altoona to keep him in line for Saturday's spot start against the Padres. The Pirates have not officially named a starter for Saturday's game, the first time since Kingham's last outing that they will need a fifth starter.
• Triple-A infielder Kevin Newman, the Pirates' first-round Draft pick in 2015, was named the International League Player of the Week. Newman, the Bucs' No. 7 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, began Tuesday with a .309/.336/.423 slash line and six steals despite batting just .234 with a .565 OPS in April.
• Double-A outfielder Jason Martin, acquired from the Astros in the Gerrit Cole trade, was named the Eastern League Player of the Week. Martin, Pittsburgh's No. 21 prospect, entered Tuesday slashing .361/.417/.639 with five homers and 18 RBIs.
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.