PITTSBURGH -- Needing room on the 25-man roster for Sunday's starter Phil Irwin, the Pirates optioned versatile Josh Harrison to Triple-A Indianapolis.
The somewhat risky move -- forcing the Pirates to play a man short on the bench -- was made to keep a fresh arm in an overworked bullpen. It left the team with a 13-man pitching staff, including hobbled Wandy Rodriguez, whose turn in the rotation would have been Sunday.
"We had to make a decision to go one way or another," manager Clint Hurdle said on Sunday morning, "and we chose to keep the bullpen intact. It was not an easy decision, but one we made with the feeling it gives us protection where we most need to have it."
The "another" would have been returning right-hander Bryan Morris, recalled when Chris Leroux was designated for assignment on Friday, to Indianapolis. However, with Bucs relievers having to work seven innings in two victories over Cincinnati -- and an average of 3 1/3 in the season's first 11 games -- Hurdle wanted to keep Morris available in his bullpen.
In fact, Morris is a candidate for closing duties in Sunday's series finale with the Reds. Jason Grilli is getting the day off, after picking up four saves in the previous six days.
It was a tough move to take for Harrison, whose energetic and multipurpose play makes him one of the most popular Pirates among fans and teammates. Making the move especially tough is the fact it comes during a series with his hometown Reds.
"I'll do what I have to do, and get back here soon," said Harrison, who has made one start this season [at third base], but has been the Pirates' busiest pinch-hitter -- with four appearances in that role.
When the Pirates do restock their bench, there is no assurance that the call will go to Harrison. Veteran infielder Brandon Inge is in the process of completing his rehabilitation from a right-shoulder-blade injury with Indianapolis.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com 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.