Pirates notebook: Clint Hurdle rests struggling David Freese
David Freese was not in the lineup against the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday, and Pirates manager Hurdle had an easy explanation: “I’ve played him too much.”
The 34-year-old Freese had appeared in all but one Pirates game since May 17. He entered Thursday hitless in his past 13 at-bats and is hitting .219 with a .314 on-base percentage and .299 slugging percentage since coming off the disabled list May 12.
Before that, Freese was the Pirates’ best hitter in April (.321/.418/.536).
Freese was projected to be a backup third baseman and first baseman this season, but the absence of Jung Ho Kang because of visa issues has necessitated Freese being the everyday third baseman.
No misgivings about using Rivero
Hurdle joked at the end of his pregame meeting with reporters Thursday the only people who didn’t like seeing Felipe Rivero enter Wednesday’s game were those who had bet on the “over” from their bookie or offshore-based website.
Someone reminded Hurdle they weren’t the only ones: The Rays’ Corey Dickerson, Evan Longoria and Logan Morrison probably weren’t happy, either.
The threesome went down feebly in order in the ninth inning, Dickerson and Longoria via strikeouts. Rivero needed only 12 pitches, and the 10 fastballs all had velocities between 99.4 and 101.3 mph.
But with a four-run lead and with Rivero having pitched the night before, did Hurdle question using his closer?
“No, he needed to pitch there,” Hurdle said.
None of his other options — Antonio Bastardo, Wade LeBlanc, Jhan Marinez, Edgar Santana — were ideal for various reasons.
“You ask a man to pitch the ninth, you give him the ball, and then you take it away from him in three hitters,” Hurdle said. “It could have been a bloop or a mis-hit — because as soon as the save situation comes up, he’s out of there — so what’s the walk off the mound like?
“Rivero is gonna pitch the ninth. We’re gonna go ahead and close this thing off and get on down the road and figure out tomorrow.”
Escobar to the Futures Game
Colombian right-hander Luis Escobar was added to the “World” team roster for the Futures game July 9, which is at Marlins Park in Miami two days before the MLB All-Star Game.
Escobar, 21, has an organizational- and South Atlantic League-leading 97 strikeouts in 712⁄3 innings over 15 games (14 starts) for Low-A West Virginia. Only seven pitchers in minor league baseball have more strikeouts.
Eight players from the Pirates’ top two minor-league affiliates were named to their Double-A and Triple-A All-Star rosters.
Starting pitchers Steven Brault and Drew Hutchison and outfielder Chris Bostick were selected from Triple-A Indianapolis in the International League.
Double-A Altoona will be represented by outfielder Jordan Luplow, third baseman Wyatt Mathisen, second baseman Kevin Kramer, right-handed starting pitcher Alex McRae and right-handed closer Montana DuRapau on the Western Division at the Eastern League All-Star game next month.
Of that group, Kramer is most likely to make an impact in the majors. The 23-year-old was a second-round pick out of UCLA two years ago and entered this season as the Pirates’ 17th-best prospect, according to MLB.com . After hitting .373 in April, Kramer was at .297 with six home runs when he was placed on the disabled list June 11 with a broken hand.
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.