Six-man rotation a possibility in September

Six-man rotation a possibility in September

PITTSBURGH -- Manager John Russell said Saturday that the idea of a six-man rotation in September has been broached with interim pitching coach Ray Searage. For now, though, there has been mere discussions -- not a decision -- on the topic.

The one known at this point, as confirmed by Russell, is that the Pirates do not plan on shutting down any member of their current rotation because of an escalating innings count. Last year, Ross Ohlendorf stopped pitching two weeks before the end of the season because his innings total was so much higher than it was the year before.

Therefore, going with a six-man rotation next month would be dictated more by a desire to get another starter -- likely top prospect Brad Lincoln -- some extra looks, instead of by a need to give extra rest to the other five starters.

Lincoln, who was sent back to Triple-A after beginning his Major League career with a 1-4 record and a 6.57 ERA in nine starts, is a definite candidate to be called up when rosters expand on Sept. 1. On Saturday, he was placed on the Minor League disabled list with neck soreness/stiffness (retroactive to Friday), but he is expected to only have his next start delayed. Lincoln should be back on the mound by September.

Charlie Morton is the other starter who could get a look. The right-hander struggled immensely in fewer than two months with the Pirates, and he has had an up-and-down season with Indianapolis since. He missed his past scheduled start due to minor elbow discomfort.

If the Pirates don't go with a stringent six-man rotation, Russell said he could still spot-start a callup by skipping one of the other starters' turn. There is also the option of using a starter in a bullpen role.

"We'll see," Russell said. "We'll sit down and look at the schedule and days off and travel. We'll look into it because we do have some starter candidates to come up, and we have to decide how to use those guys."