PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates accommodated newcomers Marlon Byrd and John Buck with a pair of Wednesday pregame moves, one anticipated and the other a bit of a shocker.
All-Star left-hander Jeff Locke was optioned to Double-A Altoona, along with rookie catcher Tony Sanchez.
Locke's Minor League detour was taken with the apparent agreement of all that the pitcher needed a break -- physically as well as mentally -- with a month to go in his first full big league season. Manager Clint Hurdle got that impression in a pregame talk with Locke.
"I think Jeff got to the point where he felt fatigued," Hurdle said, following the Pirates' 7-1 victory over Milwaukee at PNC Park, "and we needed to find a way to give him a pause button. That's basically what we've done."
With Buck available to provide catching support for starter Russell Martin, Sanchez's brief departure was expected. He will be able to rejoin the club on Tuesday, after the 25-man roster limit had expired and when Altoona's season will end.
Locke's demotion comes in the wake of his third straight short start, when he allowed five runs and eight hits in 4 2/3 innings against the Brewers Tuesday night. Since entering the All-Star break with a record of 8-2 and a 2.15 ERA, Locke has one win in eight starts, with an ERA of 6.18 and an opponents' average of .340.
"This move allows us to give Jeff Locke a short break," Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said. "It also allows Tony Sanchez to get back to the Major Leagues as soon as the rules permit us to do so. In addition, this gives us the opportunity to maintain a full roster until both Jeff and Tony can return to the club on September 3. That is when the Double-A season is over and when the club intends to recall both players."
Hurdle emphasized the fact that Locke is the only starter who has been in the rotation from the beginning of the season. Gerrit Cole was a midseason callup, A.J. Burnett spent a month on the DL with a calf injury, Francisco Liriano's season was delayed into mid-May as he recovered from a right hand fracture, and Charlie Morton returned from Tommy John surgery in late June.
"Hopefully, we found a little refresher button for Locke," Hurdle said.
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.Less