PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates on Sunday activated veteran reliever Juan Cruz from the 15-day disabled list and optioned rookie reliever Jared Hughes to Triple-A Indianapolis.
"This really doesn't have to do with performance. This has to do with [roster space]," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said Sunday of the decision to demote Hughes. "Cruz is coming off today. We've got to get Cruz back involved to see where he can take this next opportunity."
Cruz, who has been sidelined since July 18 with right shoulder inflammation, has gone 1-1 with a 2.61 ERA and is averaging 9.3 strikeouts per nine innings in 37 appearances with Pittsburgh this season. The 33-year-old right-hander made two rehab appearances at Double-A Altoona, giving up a combined two runs on five hits in 1 1/3 innings.
Hughes, 27, has been a valuable component of the Pirates' bullpen this season. He has appeared in 47 games, tops on the team, and his 56 2/3 innings pitched lead the relief corps. He has posted a 2-1 record and 2.70 ERA.
After giving up six combined runs in three outings, Hughes bounced back nicely against the Padres on Saturday night. He entered the game in the sixth inning with two outs and the bases loaded. He got himself out of the jam by inducing a flyout to right field and went on to throw two more scoreless innings.
"I think I made the adjustments needed yesterday, and went out, pitched well," Hughes said Sunday, shortly before leaving the clubhouse. "I made the adjustments to where I think that I can just continue doing that for the next few weeks. [I'll] go down there, stay positive, and earn another callup."
Hughes did not seem at all bitter about the demotion and insisted that he's healthy. Hurdle said it's possible that Hughes could be back in the big leagues before Sept. 1, when active rosters expand to 40 players.
"Right now, dependability is as important as anything," Hurdle said. "We're optimistic that his downtime now can give him a breath of fresh air, and he can get after it, like we saw early [in] April and May and even through early June.
"The bullpen effectiveness that we have, he's been a big part of that because he's pitched multiple roles and he's carried his workload -- more than a fair share of his workload."