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Young pitchers experiencing growing pains

Kontos, Benoit sidelined; Brault, Santana, Barbato summoned
MLB.com

PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates shuffled their battered bullpen on Tuesday afternoon, calling up three relievers from Triple-A Indianapolis to bolster a worn-down unit that nearly ran out of arms on Monday night.

Pittsburgh recalled left-hander Steven Brault and right-handers Edgar Santana and Johnny Barbato before Tuesday night's 8-5 loss to the Dodgers at PNC Park. The Pirates optioned right-hander Dovydas Neverauskas to Indianapolis and placed right-handers George Kontos (right groin strain) and Joaquin Benoit (left knee inflammation) on the 10-day disabled list.

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PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates shuffled their battered bullpen on Tuesday afternoon, calling up three relievers from Triple-A Indianapolis to bolster a worn-down unit that nearly ran out of arms on Monday night.

Pittsburgh recalled left-hander Steven Brault and right-handers Edgar Santana and Johnny Barbato before Tuesday night's 8-5 loss to the Dodgers at PNC Park. The Pirates optioned right-hander Dovydas Neverauskas to Indianapolis and placed right-handers George Kontos (right groin strain) and Joaquin Benoit (left knee inflammation) on the 10-day disabled list.

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Brault warmed up in the bullpen, Barbato gave up the tie-breaking run in the sixth inning and Santana served up a two-run homer to Yasmani Grandal in the seventh before working a scoreless eighth.

Video: LAD@PIT: Grandal uncorks a two-run jack for insurance

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said young pitchers can benefit from meaningful late-season games, even if that experience is accompanied by growing pains like Tuesday night.

"They want to hold the line," Hurdle said. "They want to keep the game right there, put the guy that pitches behind them in a better position than they were in. I do believe it adds value."

The Pirates put themselves in a bind on Monday, getting to the point that Jameson Taillon, Tuesday's starter, had to warm up in the bullpen during the 12th inning before Neverauskas served up a game-winning homer to Yasiel Puig. So they needed fresh arms Tuesday.

Video: LAD@PIT: Puig skies a go-ahead solo homer in the 12th

Barbato and Santana will slot into the front end of the bullpen, pitching in lower-leverage situations, while Brault will work as a long reliever. Barbato posted a 3.26 ERA in 30 1/3 innings over 24 appearances for Indianapolis. Santana, regarded as a possible late-inning reliever in the making, owned a 2.77 ERA with seven saves in 52 innings over 40 outings.

Brault went 10-5 with a 1.94 ERA in 21 Triple-A games (20 starts). He developed a more aggressive approach that led to better results, and he believes that mentality -- combined with his recent relief experience in the Majors -- will ease his transition into the bullpen down the stretch.

"With the stuff I learned in Triple-A this year as a starter, then to be able to have a few relief appearances and have a few now, I think I'm kind of putting everything together and it's all getting better," Brault said.

Kontos' stint is retroactive to Sunday, and he doesn't expect to spend more than the mandatory 10 days on the DL. Unable to pitch on Sunday night, Kontos began warming up in the 10th inning on Monday and decided he still didn't feel well enough to take the mound.

"I just felt that I'm no good to the team or myself if I go out there and I'm not able to pitch like myself and execute the way that I normally do," Kontos said. "Just trying to play it safe for the benefit of the team and myself."

Video: PIT@MIL: Kontos strikes out Santana, side in the 7th

Kontos said he has never dealt with this type of injury before, and he still felt "a little sore" on Tuesday. He was examined by a doctor on Monday night and said his strength and flexibility checked out fine.

"I just didn't want to push something that wasn't quite ready," Kontos said.

It is unclear how Benoit sustained his injury, but he pitched two innings on Monday night for the first time since last June. Neverauskas pitched in three consecutive games for the first time in his professional career, so he would not have been available for the next two or three days. He figures to return after Major League rosters expand from 25 to 40 players on Sept. 1.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.

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