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Notes: Rookie waits for green light

Notes: Rookie waits for green light

PITTSBURGH -- Pirates southpaw Tom Gorzelanny took perhaps a final step towards a return to the starting rotation by throwing off the bullpen mound for approximately 30 minutes Monday afternoon at PNC Park.

Gorzelanny, who has been sidelined since Aug. 15 by left elbow tendinitis, threw approximately 80 pitches Monday. Gorzelanny took breaks occasionally during the session to simulate a game situation.

Although Gorzelanny admitted that he was a little gassed after the marathon throwing session, he reported feeling no linger effects of the injury.

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"Obviously, after throwing 80 pitches straight, you're going to be a little tired," said Gorzelanny. "But I felt good -- strong and in good shape.

"Before, I was throwing 30 pitches and feeling [symptoms of the injury]. Now, I'm throwing 80 pitches and I don't feel a thing. It will be even better when I know when I am pitching."

The rookie is hoping that his throwing session will be enough to convince the Pirates coaching staff that he is ready to come off of the disabled list.

"They know what I am thinking," said Gorzelanny. "They know I want to be out there and I want to start. I'll do whatever it takes and go from there."

Pirates manager Jim Tracy is not yet ready to give Gorzelanny the green light to return. The Bucs skipper will hold off on making a decision until consulting with the training staff.

"I just want to know that this guy is completely asymptomatic," said Tracy.

Tracy said Monday that if Gorzelanny did return, he'd have a relief pitcher assigned to "piggyback" Gorzelanny so that the rookie can ease his way back into action.

"If he does go out and pitch again for us, I'm not sitting here and saying there is a strong chance he'll go deep into the seventh inning," said Tracy. "That's not the intention at all."

Youman an option: If the Pirates decide against starting Gorzelanny on Saturday against the Mets, fellow rookie Shane Youman will likely make his second start for the Bucs.

Youman allowed three runs on five hits and four walks Sunday against the Reds in his big-league debut. The southpaw took a shutout into the sixth inning before allowing Cincinnati to rally for three runs.

"With what Shane did [Sunday], you'd certainly think that, if there is another opporuntity, you'd like to consider getting that guy back out there," Tracy said. "I don't want that player to feel like that was a one-time deal and we were just filling a void. That's not the intention."

Because the Pirates have scheduled off-days on Thursday and next Monday, they would have the option of skipping Gorzelanny and/or Youman the next time through the rotation. However, Tracy has stated on several occasions that he plans to give his young starters extra rest whenever possible during the final weeks of the season.

Sharpless' confidence grows: The Pirates' bullpen, as it is currently constructed, is divided into two distinct groups.

On one side of the ledger, you have Matt Capps, Salomon Torres, John Grabow and Damaso Marte. These are the relievers who have been with the Bucs all season, and they're the guys Tracy leans on when the Pirates have a lead late in the game.

On the other side, there is long reliever Victor Santos and a handful of young pitchers with limited big-league experience. Tracy has been reluctant to put any of these relief pitchers into high-pressure situations.

Rookie Josh Sharpless is becoming the bridge between those two camps.

Although Sharpless has less than one month of big-league experience under his belt, he's already impressed Tracy so much that the manager has allowed him to get his feet wet in a couple of close games.

"There might be some situations where you have to expose him a little bit," said Tracy. "You're hopeful of the fact that this guy isn't too far from being a [permanent] big leaguer, and you expose him to some things."

Tracy's faith in Sharpless, who has allowed two runs in nine appearances, has gone a long way towards boosting the rookie right-hander's confidence.

"That means a lot to me," said Sharpless. "Being in those situations has helped me to relax. I thrive on the pressure situations. I think it helps me focus a lot more."

Because Capps was similarly eased into the high-pressure roles earlier this season, Sharpless has used the fellow rookie as a role model for his own development.

"We talk all of the time about how to handle situations," said Sharpless. "He's helped me out a lot. He started the season in this situation and now he's second or third in the National League in appearances."

Altoona elimated: After rallying back from a two-games-to-none deficit in their series with Akron, Double-A Altoona was eliminated from the Eastern League playoffs Sunday after suffering a 5-2 loss to the Aeros.

Curve starting pitcher Nerio Rodriguez allowed four runs in five innings. Second baseman Javier Guzman had three hits and an RBI, right fielder Ray Sadler connected on his second home run of the series and top prospect Andrew McCutchen chipped in two hits for Altoona in a losing effort.

Late mayor honored: In memory of late Pittsburgh mayor Bob O'Connor, who passed away on Sept. 1, the Pirates began wearing a specially-designed patch on their uniforms Monday night. The patch features a black background with the name "Bob" in gold lettering.

O'Connor was also recognized with a moment of silence prior to the game Monday.

On deck: The Pirates and Brewers will continue their three-game series Tuesday night at PNC Park. Veteran right-hander Shawn Chacon (6-5, 6.80 ERA) will start for the Bucs against All-Star left-hander Chris Capuano (11-10, 3.49 ERA).

Ed Eagle is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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