Pirates notebook: Nicasio returns from restricted list, moves to bullpen
Juan Nicasio came off the restricted list Friday and went straight from the starting rotation into the bullpen.
“We gave him 12 starts,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “We saw some things we needed to see and we saw some things that made us say, ‘Well, is it time to try something different?’ I think (the bullpen move) is a good fit and good timing.”
Nicasio (5-6, 5.83 ERA) was signed last winter as a bullpen candidate, but earned his way into the rotation with a superb spring training. The right-hander made some solid starts, including an outing of seven shutout innings April 29 against the Cincinnati Reds, but also had some wipeouts.
“He ran into some of the challenges that young pitchers run into when they’ve got to go through a lineup three times,” Hurdle said.
On June 16, Nicasio was tagged for six runs in 4 1⁄3 innings against the New York Mets. Two days later, he was placed on the restricted list to attend to a family matter in the Dominican Republic.
Nicasio threw a bullpen session on Thursday and was told of his new role.
“I told him this isn’t something we’re looking at for just a week,” Hurdle said. “We’re plugging him out there right now.”
Nicasio began his career in 2011 as a starter with the Colorado Rockies. Last season, in 52 relief appearances for the Los Angeles Dodgers, he averaged 10 strikeouts per nine innings.
“Last year was an eye-opening experience for him, to have the success he had out of the bullpen,” Hurdle said. “The lessons he learned this year (as a starter) are going to help him.”
Sunday starter: Kuhl
The Pirates have not yet announced their starting pitcher for Sunday’s nationally televised game, but they intend to use right-hander Chad Kuhl.
Kuhl (6-2, 2.58) streched on the field at PNC Park with the Pirates on Friday and stowed his gear in the clubhouse.
“It’s nice to get here early and set up my locker,” Kuhl said. “I’m not nervous at all. I’m looking forward to (the game). “
Frazier called up
Batting .324 last season with Double-A Altoona got utilityman Adam Frazier a spot in the Arizona Fall League. He played in seven games there before being assigned to Team USA for the inaugural WBSC Premier 12 world championships.
Frazier began this season with Triple-A Indianapolis and led the International League with a .333 average. The Pirates called him up Friday.
“Seeing the world and having a good time doing it,” Frazier said. “I’ve got to go to Taiwan and Japan, which was a pretty awesome experience. Now I’m here in Pittsburgh with you all.”
To get Frazier on the 40-man and active rosters, infielder Cole Figureroa was designated for assignment and catcher Jacob Stallings was sent back to Indy.
Frazier went into the game in the sixth inning and got his first hit, a single to center off J.P. Howell.
This season, Frazier has played 58 games in the outfield — center and left — and eight at second base. He also can play shortstop, third base and second base.
“(Outfield) is challenging at times, but that’s part of the learning process,” Frazier said. “I just try to go out there and react, not think too much about what I’m doing.”
Hurdle said he would be comfortable giving Frazier a spot start in the outfield.
The Pirates needed to shore up their outfield depth, as Andrew McCutchen (thumb), Gregory Polanco (leg) and Starling Marte (foot) are battling injuries. Neither McCutchen, who’s batting .238, nor Marte was in the lineup Thursday. On Friday, Polanco was benched.
Frazier, 24, was a sixth-round pick in 2013 out of Mississippi State. In 67 games at Indianapolis, he had an .826 OPS and 17 stolen bases.
Pirates farm director Larry Broadway told the Tribune-Review in November that Frazier projected as a super-utility player in the majors.
“He’s a high-energy offensive player who can do some different things on the field,” Broadway said. “You’re not going to get tons of power out of him, but he can handle a bat. There’s some definite spark he brings to a club.”
Proceeds from the Pirates Charities 50/50 raffle Saturday will benefit the OneOrlando Fund, which aids people affected by the June 12 mass shooting inside the Pulse nightclub.
Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at @BiertempfelTrib.or via Twitter