Bixler, Bautista join Bucs for series finale

Bixler, Bautista join Bucs for series finale

CHICAGO -- As the Pirates close out a three-game series against the Cubs, they'll do so with some fresh faces who weren't here when the team first arrived Thursday night.

Pittsburgh made a flurry of roster moves on Saturday, highlighted by the additions of shortstop-turned-utility man Brian Bixler and reliever Denny Bautista. Reliever Jose Ascanio was placed on the disabled list with right shoulder tendinitis and outfielder Jeff Salazar was designated for assignment in order to open up a spot on the 40-man roster for Bautista.

Ascanio was the latest Pirates reliever to be hit with an injury, following Evan Meek and Donnie Veal, both of whom have landed on the DL in August. Manager John Russell revealed on Saturday that Ascanio felt some tightness in his right shoulder during his appearance in Colorado on Tuesday and that the tightness hadn't subsided when Ascanio threw on the side on Friday.

"We took the safe route," Russell said.

Ascanio is scheduled to have further tests when the team returns to Pittsburgh on Monday.

After spending some time with the Pirates last season, Bautista has pitched exclusively for Triple-A Indianapolis this year. In 48 relief innings, Bautista allowed 26 runs, 34 walks and struck out 58. However, with lefty Phil Dumatrait set to come off the disabled list and join the Pirates' 'pen at the end of the next week, Bautista's stint with the big league club will likely be short.

Salazar, who went 1-for-26 since being called up by the Pirates on July 1, was told he had been designated for assignment shortly after arriving at Wrigley Field on Saturday morning. The Pirates had no intentions of taking the outfielder, who had been primarily used as a pinch-hitter, off the roster, but the club's hand was forced when a roster spot had to be opened.

The organization now has 10 days to trade, release or outright Salazar to the Minors. He'd have to pass through waivers to be sent to the Minors, though that is not expected to be an issue.

As for Bixler, he arrives on the heels of a strong six-week showing at the plate for Indianapolis. Since the beginning of July, Bixler has hit .335. He was named the player of the month in July and was riding a season-best 15-game hitting streak at the time he was called up.

"I was just getting myself in a good position to hit," Bixler said of his recent success. "I was just sticking with my routine and staying healthy. I was really getting in the same spot [to hit] and getting consistent in my approach."

Bixler has also recently been converted into a utility player. Over the past six weeks, he has split time playing short, second and in center after the organization determined his best course to the Majors could come if he was a more versatile option. He made 11 starts in center field after never before playing the outfield. He will serve as a utility option now with the Pirates, with his main role expected to be coming off the bench.

"[General manager] Neal [Huntington] told me he's been doing very well in center," Russell said. "He gives us a lot of flexibility. Will we give him a few starts? We'll see. He does give us some flexibility on the bench."

In 133 career Major League at-bats, Bixler has hit .165 with 54 strikeouts and four RBIs.

Pitching matchup
PIT: RHP Ross Ohlendorf (10-8, 4.30 ERA)
Ohlendorf was nothing short of efficient in his previous start as he gave up three runs on six hits in six-plus innings for the win against the Rockies on Tuesday. Ohlendorf is in the midst of a second-half surge as he's 3-1 with a 3.07 ERA in five starts -- the past four of which have been quality starts -- since the All-Star break. If there's anything that could derail him, it might be his ribs. Ohlendorf fielded a ground ball in the sixth inning against the Rockies and had his wind knocked out. He stayed in the ballgame and said he was a little sore postgame.

CHC: RHP Rich Harden (7-7, 4.30 ERA)
Harden did not get a decision in his previous start vs. the Phillies. He retired the first 16 batters he faced before walking Carlos Ruiz with one out in the sixth. One batter later, Jimmy Rollins spoiled Harden's no-hit bid with a two-run homer. That was one of two hits off Harden in his seven innings of work. He also struck out six. Harden has a 1.95 ERA in his last six starts.

Bucs bits
Pitching coach Joe Kerrigan and Friday's losing pitcher Charlie Morton spent an extensive amount of time talking early on Saturday in the visitor's bullpen. Morton allowed 10 earned runs in his one-inning start against the Cubs. ... Veal threw his second side session on Saturday, with Russell on hand to watch. Veal is still scheduled to be reexamined in Pittsburgh on Monday and will likely be sent out to begin a Minor League rehab assignment soon after. ... Andy LaRoche and Delwyn Young were both out of the lineup on Saturday, but not for injury reasons. The two infielders are expected to play in Sunday's series finale. ... Pirates president Frank Coonelly, who is in town with a group of corporate sponsors from Pittsburgh, spent some time in the Pirates' clubhouse on Saturday morning.

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On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television

On radio
• WPGB-FM 104.7

Up next
• Monday: Pirates (Kevin Hart, 3-2, 3.69) vs. Brewers (Carlos Villanueva, 2-9, 5.80), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Tuesday: Pirates (Paul Maholm, 6-7, 4.93) vs. Brewers (Manny Parra, 8-8, 6.44), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Wednesday: Pirates (Charlie Morton, 2-6, 5.51) vs. Brewers (Yovani Gallardo, 11-9, 3.52), 7:05 p.m. ET

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.