Top Prospects: Stolmy Pimentel, RHP, Pirates

PITTSBURGH -- All season long, Pirates fans will be getting looks at a reliever almost certain to be in the team's 2015 starting rotation.

Manager Clint Hurdle and coaches have been effusive in the potential they see in right-hander Stolmy Pimentel, and his first outing of the season did nothing to sway them from that anticipation.

Pimentel came on in the 13th inning on Wednesday night to blank the Cubs on two hits for four innings and pick up the 4-3 victory on Thursday morning when the Bucs pushed across a run in the 16th.

"We see a guy with a three-, four-pitch mix who can get through the lineup three times," Hurdle said. "He'll be a potential starter moving forward."

The only current starters under team control for next season are Charlie Morton and Gerrit Cole. Veteran lefties Francisco Liriano and Wandy Rodriguez are both in the final years of their pacts, and Edinson Volquez inked a one-year deal as a free agent. So even factoring in Jeff Locke, currently on the DL rehabbing from right-side discomfort, there could be two openings in 2015.

Well, make it one. Pimentel seems to have dibs on the other.

"The arm is big," Hurdle said. "We love the young man, the guy -- he's very passionate, a great listener, hard worker. Two-seam and four-seam fastballs, slider, splitter. It feels old school, the way we used to cut young starters' teeth in the bullpen."

Pimentel's starting debut will not have to wait for next season. If the Pirates need spot starts -- a virtual certainty given normal attrition -- the 24-year-old Dominican is certain to get first call.

Ishikawa draws fourth straight start at first base

Ishikawa on Spring Training and the 2014 season

PITTSBURGH -- Travis Ishikawa did something on Friday night he had done only once since the middle of the 2010 season: start a fourth consecutive game.

Pretty convincing evidence of the 30-year-old first baseman's comeback from obscurity. Theoretically, he merely is the lefty half in a platoon with the right-handed hitting Gaby Sanchez. But in practice, he is an early season fixture because the Pirates are facing their usual phalanx of right-handed starters, and because manager Clint Hurdle does not want him to lose his Spring Training edge.

"I do try to read something into Spring Training swings to get some momentum, and to get some traction in the lineup," Hurdle said.

Ishikawa wedged himself onto the club by batting .290, with three home runs, in the preseason. He did leave Florida cool (2-for-12), then had two hits on Opening Day.

He had last started four straight games on Sept. 10-14, 2012, when he was with the Brewers. Prior to that, his last such regular duty came on July 9-15, 2010, with the Giants, for whom he was the regular first baseman for the 2009-10 seasons.

First number, last word

22 1/3: Consecutive scoreless innings, dating back to last season of course, by Pirates lefty reliever Tony Watson, the third-longest active streak among Major League pitchers (Kevin Siegrist 26, Hisashi Iwakuma 23).

"We sent him a car, if he wanted to leave town before the bus. That was as impressive an Opening Series I've ever been a part of, or ever witnessed." -- Hurdle, on Cubs leadoff hitter Emilio Bonifacio, who went 11-for-16 in the three season-opening games against the Bucs.

Worth noting

• Closer Jason Grilli will be honored as the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame's Man of the Year at a Sunday night banquet in town.

• When Hurdle summed up the 2013 season series with the Cards with, "We wiped them out here, and they wiped us out there," he was not kidding.

Counting the National League Division Series, the teams split 24 games. In the Pirates' 12 wins, they outscored the Redbirds, 70-16. In the 12 losses, they were outscored 92-30.

• Volquez confirmed he's "good" to make his scheduled start on Sunday, with Thursday's two-inning relief outing not raising any issues.