PITTSBURGH -- One of the Pirates' biggest preseason concerns was the challenge of keeping Rod Barajas fresh for a reasonable portion of the season's second half. The club's intuition about the veteran catcher's influence on the pitching staff has been borne out, but they knew they were getting a 36-year-old who hadn't made more than 87 starts behind the plate since 2009. Michael McKenry has taken a swing -- several of them, in fact -- at that issue. Problem solved. McKenry's surprising and welcome production has given Barajas and the club the luxury of waiting out the left-knee bone bruise he suffered 12 days ago in Philadelphia.
Entering Friday night, the Bucs had won eight of 10 games since, only two of which have involved Barajas but most of which have been affected by McKenry's .370 average with three homers and 11 RBIs in the other eight. Barajas was back in the lineup Friday night, to catch Erik Bedard, but figures to sit out much of the rest of the weekend. Coupled with the upcoming four-day hiatus, the serious break will help keep him energized for the stretch. "We were looking for opportunities to get McKenry in play more," manager Clint Hurdle said, "and when presented with this opportunity, he moved on it. "We could be aggressive and have Barajas play more innings now, but why? The way McKenry is playing, Rod can get much healthier much quicker." Friday's start was No. 49 for Barajas in Pittsburgh's 83rd game.