CHICAGO -- Nothing has changed with the Pirates' pitching plans after A.J. Burnett leads off the weekend series in Cincinnati. The starters the ensuing two days still depend on the games' significance to playoff seeding -- although manager Clint Hurdle did think aloud about the most likely sequence, Charlie Morton then Gerrit Cole.
However, the Pittsburgh manager did for the first time confirm that Jeff Locke won't make another start -- while holding out the possibility the lefty might find a bullpen role on a postseason roster.
"We'll be open-minded, and see where it takes us," Hurdle said of the Ohio rotation plans. "Cole [who pitched Tuesday] and Morton [Monday's pitcher] would be on regular turn, so that's a possibility. Three games from now, it could be completely different. Sunday's game might not have the same value."
Hurdle would thus bypass the opportunity to bring back his best season-long pitcher, left-hander Francisco Liriano, on three days' rest on Sunday. This, despite the fact Liriano has performed well on short rest the only two times in his career he has done it (three hits and 15 strikeouts in 12 innings) and, with day games Wednesday and Sunday, in effect his body would be getting close to the regular four days' rest.
The manager has three reasons for dismissing Liriano as an option:
• "It's almost four days for the body," Hurdle said, "but you don't know about the mind. They have their routines, and some aren't very flexible with them."
• Great American Ball Park has not been kind to the left-hander, who has lost both of his starts there this year, allowing 10 hits and seven runs in 10 1/3 innings.
• Having a well-rested Liriano set for what now is a certain first postseason game is not a bad plan.
"I'm feeling good with how our rotation lines up," 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