Pirates eye return to five-man rotation | TribLIVE.com
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Manager Clint Hurdle, shown removing pitcher James McDonald during the fifth inning against the Padres on Friday, Aug. 10 at PNC Park, said the Pirates will likely return to a five-man rotation after the upcoming road trip. (Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review)

Manager Clint Hurdle said Tuesday the Pirates “more than likely” will resume using a five-man starting rotation after they return from their upcoming road trip to St. Louis and San Diego.

The Pirates are using six starters during a stretch of 20 games without a day off, which comes to a conclusion Aug. 22 against the Padres. After that, the Pirates will be off four straight Thursdays. They will end the season with another run of 20 consecutive games.

Right-hander Kevin Correia could remain in the rotation when it shrinks to five pitchers. The acquisition of Wandy Rodriguez bounced Correia to the bullpen, but he has made two spot starts as part of the six-man plan. “Kevin loves to compete and he believes in himself,” Hurdle said. “He’s very comfortable when he has the opportunity to start.”

Hurdle said “there is conversation going on” about who will go to the pen on Aug. 23. “What you’d like to happen, what needs to happen and what will happen could all be different right now. You want to put the five guys out there who’ll give you the best shot. We’ve got six to choose from. It gets down to who you feel will be the most aggressive, throw strikes and make teams beat them with the bat. All those things are in consideration.”

Right-hander James McDonald could end up in the pen. In six starts since the All-Star break, McDonald has yielded 42 hits and 21 walks in 31 innings, and has an 8.71 ERA.

• Reliever Juan Cruz, who came off the disabled list Sunday, was not available Tuesday after pitching on back-to-back days. In those two outings, Cruz worked two innings and allowed one run on one hit, walked two and hit one batter. “The velocity was there,” Hurdle said. “He was all around the plate, just had some real close misses. We feel we’re in a real good spot with him, as far as his health.”

— Rob Biertempfel

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