PITTSBURGH -- Andrew McCutchen wasn't the only one facing his former team for the first time Friday night at PNC Park. Kyle Crick said he had this series marked on his calendar. George Kontos said he felt like his heart was beating through his chest as he ran in from
PITTSBURGH -- Andrew McCutchen wasn't the only one facing his former team for the first time Friday night at PNC Park. Kyle Crick said he had this series marked on his calendar. George Kontos said he felt like his heart was beating through his chest as he ran in from the Pirates bullpen.
Crick pitched the fifth inning and faced McCutchen. Kontos worked out of trouble in a scoreless eighth that began with an awkward reunion and ended with a laugh.
"Going out there and being able to put up a zero and getting an opportunity to get that first one out of the way was good," Kontos said.
Crick was in the Giants organization from the day they made him the 49th overall Draft pick in 2011 until Jan. 15, when they traded him to the Pirates for McCutchen. Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle called on Crick to pitch the fifth, knowing McCutchen was due to bat second.
"That part of the lineup is interesting," Hurdle said. "Figured why not, let's just get it over with."
With Gregor Blanco on first, Crick got McCutchen to ground out on a two-seam fastball, a pitch he's reintroduced into his arsenal at catcher Francisco Cervelli's urging.
"I didn't really think much of it. Just kind of another batter in the box," Crick said. "More than anything, I just noticed the Giants and stuff and I looked into the dugout and I could see all my friends. It was pretty cool."
Kontos, full of adrenaline and emotion, began the eighth by plunking Brandon Crawford, one of his closest friends on the Giants, with a cutter. As Crawford took his base, he gave Kontos a side-eyed glare.
"He looked at me like, 'What the hell?'" Kontos said. "Then when he got to home plate as the inning was ending, he faked like he was going to charge."
Only after he left the bases loaded did Kontos allow himself to crack a smile. He keeps in touch with his former teammates, particularly those from the World Series-winning teams of 2012 and '14 like Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, Brandon Belt and Crawford.
"It's always good to see them in person," Kontos said. "You spend that much time with them for that many years, it goes to being more than just teammates."
Around the horn
• Josh Harrison (fractured left hand) was cleared for more intense baseball activities on Friday and immediately took batting practice on the field with the Pirates, a welcome step forward. Harrison said he must test his healing hand, facing higher-velocity pitches in the batting cage, before beginning a Minor League rehab assignment.
"If they leave it up to me," Harrison said, "I'm leaving soon."
• Hurdle said the Pirates will evaluate Jameson Taillon (right middle finger laceration) over the next 48 hours. Taillon is tentatively scheduled to start Wednesday against the White Sox at PNC Park.
If Taillon can't start, the Pirates could adjust Nick Kingham's schedule to line him up for that game. Kingham is currently slated to start Monday for Double-A Altoona, putting him on turn to pitch for the Pirates when they need a fifth starter on May 19.
• Right-hander Joe Musgrove (shoulder strain) pitched 5 2/3 innings without allowing a hit or walk and struck out six in a rehab start for Triple-A Indianapolis on Saturday. Musgrove was scheduled to work five innings but worked efficiently enough to record two outs in the sixth while only throwing 79 pitches.
"I've been feeling good, better and better each start out," Musgrove said in an interview provided by the Indianapolis club. "Tonight was the night that I finally felt all the pieces coming together with the delivery and the release point and everything. Tonight was the best I've felt."
If all goes well in his recovery, Musgrove should pitch one more game in Triple-A -- a six-inning, 100-pitch start -- before he's ready to rejoin the Pirates rotation later this month.
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.