PITTSBURGH -- In need of immediate bullpen reinforcements, the Pirates designated first baseman Michael Morse for assignment on Wednesday to clear a spot for right-hander A.J. Schugel.
Right-hander Ryan Vogelsong stepped into the rotation for lefty Francisco Liriano, who was scratched due to a sore right hamstring. Liriano said he thinks his injury, which he felt during the last few pitches of his between-starts bullpen session in Cincinnati, is minor.
Vogelsong went on to allow one run on four hits over five strong innings, and Schugel surrendered one hit over 2 1/3 scoreless innings while striking out two in the Pirates' 7-3 loss to the Tigers on Wednesday.
But by starting Vogelsong, the Pirates are essentially two men short in the bullpen -- left-hander Kyle Lobstein pitched three innings in Tuesday's 8-2 loss in Detroit -- so they selected Schugel's contract and promoted him from Triple-A Indianapolis.
"One of the last men standing in Spring Training was A.J. He pitched extremely well in a number of different roles," manager Clint Hurdle said. "He's got the length and the volume to give us, if needed. We felt very confident in making the call his way."
Morse's long-term role with the Pirates has been in question since general manager Neal Huntington said the club plans to use David Freese as the right-handed-hitting half of its first-base platoon upon Jung Ho Kang's return from the disabled list.
Carrying a four-man bench, the Pirates opted for defensive versatility over Morse's power. Sean Rodriguez and Cole Figueroa can play anywhere, and Rodriguez is an above-average defender at first. Matt Joyce has experience in both corner outfield spots, and Chris Stewart is the backup catcher.
That left little room for Morse, primarily a first baseman, especially with Jason Rogers (also a right-handed hitter) waiting in Triple-A.
The Pirates acquired Morse from the Dodgers last July in exchange for Jose Tabata, taking on more than half of his $8 million salary. Morse hit well for Pittsburgh down the stretch last year, but he began this season 0-for-8. Pittsburgh has 10 days to trade or release the 34-year-old slugger.
Schugel, 26, put together a 1.93 ERA in 14 innings over 10 appearances this spring. The Pirates told him they'd need him at some point this season. He just didn't think it would be this soon.
"But I'm glad it was," Schugel said. "I'm glad to be here."
The Pirates made another pair of moves Wednesday, assigning infielder Pedro Florimon to Triple-A and unconditionally releasing reliever John Holdzkom. Both were designated for assignment on Opening Day.
Florimon has three days to accept or refuse his assignment to Indianapolis, where he would serve as a utility player.
"Pedro has always shown up well, prepared well," Hurdle said. "To have that kind of guy available in case of something coming on is somewhat of a luxury."
Holdzkom, who completed a remarkable journey from independent ball to a seventh-inning role in Pittsburgh in late 2014, is now a free agent.
"There's not a guy in the clubhouse, in our organization, that isn't pulling for him," Hurdle said.