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Hughes working to find place in bullpen

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MILWAUKEE -- For a player already optioned and recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis three times this season, it stands to reason that Pirates reliever Jared Hughes would look at every opportunity on the hill as a tense audition. But the 6-foot-7 right-hander said it's "almost the exact opposite."

"When I get here, I know all these guys, and we played together through the Minors," he said. "We were talking the other day, me, [Justin] Wilson, [Tony] Watson, [Bryan] Morris, we were all starters in Altoona in 2010. We played all together for a number of years. So I get up here, and it's nice to fit in with this clubhouse."

His pitching is fitting in just fine, as well.

Hughes has posted a 1.13 ERA in eight innings of work, most recently a 10-pitch, scoreless ninth on Sunday in a loss to the Cardinals. In 15 2/3 innings this season combined between Pittsburgh and Indianapolis, he has only allowed two earned runs, and he hasn't allowed a hit in five of seven outings with the Pirates thus far.

"I'm not that guy who's going to go out there and throw a bunch of breaking balls and try to strike people out," he said. "That's not who I am. I'm the guy that wants to get early action and trusts the fielders to field it."

Hughes appeared in 66 games in 2012 for the Pirates, posting a 2.85 ERA, but that mark ballooned to 4.78 in 32 innings last year.

"I struggled with the shoulder injury last year in the middle of the year, so having my arm healthy is good," he said. "I'm just continually working on the sinker, talking to other guys who throw it. The repetitions and work over the offseason on that pitch has allowed me to put it in the zone more often."

That aforementioned 2010 Altoona rotation happens to be 9-1 this year for the Pirates with a 2.53 ERA out of the bullpen. So even though Hughes has done his part, he acknowledges that it doesn't mean he has locked down a permanent place with the parent club yet.

"I have two options left, so they have the ability to move me up and down without losing me," he said. "I just have to stay positive and go out there and compete."

JR Radcliffe is a contributor to MLB.com. Teddy Cahill is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @tedcahill. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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