LOS ANGELES -- For years, manager Clint Hurdle has put in a request to general manager Neal Huntington. If possible, he wants three left-handers at his disposal in the Pirates' bullpen.Huntington did him one better over the past few weeks, stocking Pittsburgh's 'pen with four lefties: closer Tony Watson, new
LOS ANGELES -- For years, manager Clint Hurdle has put in a request to general manager Neal Huntington. If possible, he wants three left-handers at his disposal in the Pirates' bullpen.
Huntington did him one better over the past few weeks, stocking Pittsburgh's 'pen with four lefties: closer Tony Watson, new setup man Felipe Rivero, reacquired southpaw Antonio Bastardo and multi-inning option Jeff Locke.
Why does Hurdle prefer a balanced bullpen? Look no further than the Pirates' 5-1 win over the Dodgers on Friday night.
Starter Ivan Nova left the game with a runner on second and one out in the sixth inning. Lefty hitter Joc Pederson was due up, so Hurdle walked to the mound, removed Nova and called for Bastardo.
Bastardo ran a full count against Pederson, but he got him to swing through three sliders. Pederson slammed his bat in the dirt then watched Bastardo get Howie Kendrick to hit into an inning-ending groundout.
"Bastardo being able to come in and get a big-barrel bat like Pederson in the sixth inning, we haven't always had that opportunity," Hurdle said. "Sometimes it's a little more precarious chancing it with a right-handed pitcher. ... In my mind, that's what I've always shared with [Huntington]."
Facing a Dodgers lineup loaded with lefties, Hurdle could still use Rivero in the seventh and send Watson to face lefty-hitting rookie Corey Seager when a save situation developed in the ninth.
Having four lefty relievers doesn't handcuff Hurdle, either. The Pirates don't employ a traditional left-handed specialist -- a "field-goal kicker," as Hurdle dubbed former reliever Mike Myers. Their lefties have typically fared well against right-handed hitters as well.
The Pirates' lefty-laden bullpen could be more advantageous behind their all-right-handed rotation. If opponents stack their lineups with lefties, Hurdle can strategically deploy his southpaws in the late innings.
"There's certain teams that it's got an opportunity to work from a leverage standpoint to our advantage," Hurdle said. "There may be some other teams that it might not."
Around the horn
• Catcher Francisco Cervelli returned to the starting lineup Saturday after sitting out with a sore left hand/wrist, the byproduct of June surgery to repair a fractured hamate bone.
"This is what I've got right now, so I've got to deal with it," Cervelli said. "I don't think we'll be 100 percent this season, but it's going to get better and better."
• Sidelined by soreness following a collision at home plate, John Jaso started at first base for the first time since Tuesday.
• Adam Frazier got the start at second Saturday. The Pirates will face left-handers Sunday and Monday -- Brett Anderson and Matt Moore -- and Hurdle wanted to get the dynamic rookie on the field.
"If you don't get him involved today, I think we're icing him too long," Hurdle said. "He's been a very good contributor off the bench and the bat has played. We'll try to get him some at-bats to keep him fresh."
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry.