PITTSBURGH -- Instead of facing the Chicago Cubs on Monday night, on the approximate anniversary of his Major League debut, Gerrit Cole is facing a trip to the disabled list.
The Pirates' young right-handed ace has been scratched because of "shoulder fatigue," and he might land on the DL on Sunday to clear roster space for lefty Jeff Locke.
The Bucs' plan is for Locke to face the Brewers in Sunday's series finale, pushing scheduled starter Charlie Morton back to the opening game of the set against the Cubs. However, the possibilitity exists for the turns of Locke and Morton to flip-flop.
The only certainty is that Cole won't be taking his. The Pirates' top winner (6-3) labored through 100 pitches in 5 2/3 innings Tuesday night in San Diego, raising what manager Clint Hurdle called "red flags."
"There have been some things we've talked about, red flags you pick up," Hurdle said. "Consistency, volume and efficiency of pitches. There are a lot of different factors to look at.
"I think 'fatigue' is the proper word. If you look at the season he pitched last year, the run on which he went with us... At this point in time, we really feel it's [just] fatigue."
Cole made his big league debut last June 11, facing and beating the Giants at PNC Park. From that point on, through Tuesday's start against the Padres, he has made 31starts and thrown 194 innings in one calendar year.
"You want to make sure you're protecting a young guy, so that conversation [of placing him on the DL] is being had," Hurdle said.
Hurdle remains confident with Marte amid hitting woes
PITTSBURGH -- In baseball, nothing happens in a vacuum. So, as Starling Marte remained on the Pirates' bench Saturday, manager Clint Hurdle inadvertently drew analogies between him and two other members of the organization.
One, Jordy Mercer: The shortstop seemed lost 10 days ago, still dragging a .190 average -- which he has since pumped to .232 by going 11-for-22 through Friday.
"You've got to get to that point where you don't do well [in the Majors], and you have to figure it out," said Hurdle, recalling his message to Mercer, who'd never before experienced comparable struggles at any level.
Marte, who missed his fifth straight start and was hitless in his last 20 at-bats, now deals with that lesson.
"He hasn't struggled like this, anywhere. And that freaks him out a little bit," Hurdle said.
Two, Gregory Polanco: Piitsburgh's top outfield prospect's Triple-A education was at 274 plate appearances through Indianapolis' Friday night game.
Marte, for whom there was a comparable public outcry in the midst of the 2012 season, got the jump to the Pirates on July 26 with a Triple-A resume of 431 plate appearances -- even that considered on the light side by many player development folks.
"[Marte] had a small number of at-bats at the Triple-A level, and that could be a factor now, too, that nobody wants to talk about," Hurdle said. "The league has punched back and finding a recovery period, punching back, is the challenge for [Marte]."
Marte and Polanco passing each other on the Indianapolis shuttle? Even with Josh Harrison now such a lineup linchpin, forget it.
"Triple-A [for Marte] hasn't even crossed my mind," the manager said. "I have confidence he will bounce back and play, and it'll be exciting when he gets his game back."
First number, last word
5-1: Pirates' record, through Friday, in front of 33,000-plus crowds at PNC Park this season.
"He''s taking medication for his knee. So am I -- taking medication for his knee." -- Hurdle, on why pitching coach Ray Searage is so "giddy" following outings by star pupil Edinson Volquez.
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.