Hughes regains edge to tighten bullpen roster

Hughes regains edge to tighten bullpen roster

LOS ANGELES -- One reason the Pirates had the luxury of advantageously dealing Bryan Morris, a reliever with a 4-0 record, was the backup of worthy, waiting talent in the Minors. Such as Casey Sadler, who immediately got the call to take Morris' bullpen seat.

Another reason is Jared Hughes, whose return to his 2012 rookie form essentially pitched Morris off the staff.

Recovered from the right-shoulder inflammation that marred his '13 season, Hughes has gotten it all back: His health, his trademark sinker and manager Clint Hurdle's confidence in him.

In giving a status update of his post-Morris bullpen, Hurdle cited what he has stamped his "Core Four" -- lefties Tony Watson and Justin Wilson, setup man Mark Melancon, closer Jason Grilli -- but also made a point of noting, "Hughes has moved himself into more of a leverage situation in the past couple of weeks."

Translation: With chips on the line -- and, more importantly, men on base -- Hughes has become the guy.

Hughes stranded all 12 men he had inherited entering Sunday night's game. By contrast, Morris had allowed seven of his 10 inherited runners to score.

"I'm a ground-ball guy," Hughes nodded. "With the sinker, it's my job to come in and get the ground ball. And when you go in with men on base and escape the jam for somebody else, it's a great feeling."

Even during his absences last season, Hughes stranded 14 of 17 runners. In 2012, only 10 of his 38 inherited runners scored.

Tom Singer is a reporter for 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.