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Struggling Bastardo still looking to find rhythm

Left-hander pitches another difficult outing vs. Yankees
MLB.com

PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates had been looking for opportunities to use left-handed reliever Antonio Bastardo, believing he would improve, but not wanting to thrust him into high-leverage situations with the game on the line.

There hadn't been any of them lately, but the situation presented itself in the Pirates' 11-5 loss to the Yankees on Saturday. Bastardo showed no signs of improvement, however, giving up two runs on four hits and a homer in 1 1/3 innings.

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PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates had been looking for opportunities to use left-handed reliever Antonio Bastardo, believing he would improve, but not wanting to thrust him into high-leverage situations with the game on the line.

There hadn't been any of them lately, but the situation presented itself in the Pirates' 11-5 loss to the Yankees on Saturday. Bastardo showed no signs of improvement, however, giving up two runs on four hits and a homer in 1 1/3 innings.

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In five appearances this season, Bastardo has allowed 11 runs on 12 hits, including four home runs, and five walks in 5 1/3 innings. Manager Clint Hurdle has said Bastardo's problems are "correctable," and he had been working on the side.

Video: NYY@PIT: Judge launches a 457-foot homer into orbit

So, was Saturday a display of rust or a continuation of his early issues?

"A little bit of both. He hasn't been in a game, that's truth. Location still isn't sharp," Hurdle said. "That's what we had seen before the pause. The ball's cutting more than it's maintaining plane and spin and staying through the zone.

"We're not getting the kind of spin or the location we need to get out of him. The changeup played better than his breaking ball, and his velocity was a tick down. We'll need to check it out."

Bastardo's fastball averaged 90 mph on Saturday, according to Statcast™, below his 2016 average of 92 mph. Given Bastardo's early season struggles, the Pirates would prefer to have him pitch while they're either way ahead or far behind, not in a late-and-close situation.

In the nine days between Bastardo's outings, the Pirates won four games and lost four by a combined margin of four runs. Aside from Tyler Glasnow, Pittsburgh's starters have been pitching deep into games; there was little opportunity for Bastardo to work.

The downtime was so lengthy, he threw a 31-pitch bullpen session in St. Louis on Wednesday. Hurdle sought out Bastardo during batting practice on Friday and reminded him they were looking for the right moment. It came Saturday, when the Pirates were trailing by three runs.

Bastardo averaged 63 appearances per season from 2011-16. He got off to a sluggish start with the Pirates in 2015, allowing five runs in six innings over his first 10 appearances, then posted a 2.45 ERA the rest of the way.

Cervelli exits early
Catcher Francisco Cervelli left Saturday's game in the ninth inning. Asked why Cervelli was removed, Hurdle said, "I think something was going on. Not quite sure what right now." Head athletic trainer Todd Tomczyk later indicated Cervelli was not injured.

One hit, new number
After recording his first big league hit Friday night, a triple to right-center off CC Sabathia, Jose Osuna received the ball, which will go to his grandfather, whom he said is "one of the most important people in my life." He also got a new jersey number, ditching his Spring Training No. 64 in favor of No. 36. 

Video: NYY@PIT: Osuna triples for his first Major League hit

Tweet from @bonnett_scott: .@Pirates Jose Osuna and his first MLB hit ball.#LetsGoBucs pic.twitter.com/thEE3Dn7sE

The last Pirate to wear No. 36 was Edinson Volquez in 2014. Osuna said he has worn it since he was young, and he asked for the number after being called up. It was ready for him and hanging in his locker Saturday morning.

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.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Antonio Bastardo