ST. LOUIS -- Jared Hughes is getting used to riding the Minors-to-Majors shuttle.
The 26-year-old right-hander began May in much the same way he spent April -- bouncing back and forth between Pittsburgh and the Pirates' Triple-A affiliate in Indianapolis.
Hughes, who is 0-0 with a 1.69 ERA in six Major League appearances this season, joined the Pirates on Tuesday afternoon for the third time in four weeks.
The up-and-down lifestyle doesn't seem to faze him.
"I flew out here and I'm ready to go," Hughes said. "I'm just glad to play the game. I'm happy to be here. I'm fresh. I'm going to be ready from the word go."
Hughes replaces Evan Meek, who was sent to Indianapolis following Monday's game in Atlanta.
A standout during his days at Long Beach State, Hughes made the Opening Day roster and made five appearances before being optioned to Indianapolis on April 21. Four days later he was brought back up for a 24-hour stretch when Pittsburgh had to play a doubleheader against Colorado. After pitching a scoreless inning against the Rockies, Hughes returned to Indianapolis. He threw a scoreless inning at Durham on Saturday in his most recent outing.
Manager Clint Hurdle is comfortable using Hughes in any role.
"We've used him for one-inning stints, for multiple innings," Hurdle said. "He's got a power sinker with a breaking ball and an occasional changeup. He's come out of the gate pretty clean."
Hughes relies heavily on that sinker, a pitch he is still working to perfect.
"My key is to keep the ball down at all times," Hughes said. "I need to fine-tune and keep learning as time goes on. I'm going for the very bottom of the zone."
Hughes has not allowed an earned run in four of his six outings. He surrendered one run in three innings against the Cardinals on April 20.
Selected by Pittsburgh in the fourth round of the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, Hughes went 0-1 with a 4.09 ERA in 12 appearances last season. He had a solid spring but was unable to find a regular role because "the stable was full," says Hurdle.