Irwin joins Pirates in advance of Sunday's debut

Irwin joins Pirates in advance of Sunday's debut

PITTSBURGH -- Right-hander Phil Irwin joined the Pirates on Saturday -- not yet on their roster, but on their taxi squad, set to make his Major League debut by starting Sunday against the Reds.

Irwin will step in for left-hander Wandy Rodriguez, whose left-hamstring strain will prevent him from making the start, but is not serious enough to warrant placement on the disabled list. The Pirates cannot formally announce that move until Irwin is placed on the 25-man roster. A corresponding move for him will be made after Saturday night's game.

Irwin participated in pregame workouts Saturday, but could not be in uniform for the game against the Reds. A new rule in the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement formally revives the NFL's old taxi-squad concept -- it even officially goes by that name -- of openly allowing extra players in the event of an injury-forced need. Previously, teams clandestinely preparing for possible emergencies by recalling players would have to keep them out of sight.

Irwin, a 26-year-old right-hander taken in the 21st round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, underscored his development with an impressive Spring Training. The Yankees roughed him up on March 17 in his final outing prior to being optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis, but he allowed five hits in eight innings, striking out nine, before that.

Irwin allowed one run in six innings in his only Triple-A start this year. Last season, Irwin rose from Class A all the way to Triple-A, with a composite record of 8-7 and 2.83 ERA on the three rungs.

"He's made real good improvement," manager Clint Hurdle said. "He can bring us the best package for competing right now."

Tom Singer is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.