Johnson, Farnsworth called up; Snider activated
As big league rosters expand to 40, Bucs bolster pitching staff, bench
PITTSBURGH -- Having already considerably reshuffled their roster, the Pirates made minimal additions Sunday, when the 25-man limit expired.
Recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis were left-hander Kris Johnson -- who immediately went to work as the starter in the finale of the series against the Cardinals -- and veteran right-handed reliever Kyle Farnsworth.
Additionally, outfielder Travis Snider was recalled from his rehab assignment and activated off the DL, where he had gone July 28 with chronic discomfort in his left big toe. In 10 games between Double-A Altoona and Indianapolis, Snider batted .342 (13-for-38) with a double his only extra-base hit.
Johnson was picked for the important assignment over other limited options "because of his experience and the ability to move the ball east-west," according to manager Clint Hurdle.
The 28-year-old former first-round Draft pick (2006, Red Sox) has experienced only one big league game -- a six-inning relief stint for the Bucs on Aug. 18 -- but his treads include 169 Minor League starts and has also pitched big games in ultra-competitive winter ball.
"He's pitched a lot of games in front of 20,000-30,000 people. He hasn't pitched a game of this magnitude," Hurdle said. "but with his mound presence, we felt he was best suited to handle this challenge."
Farnsworth got into a half-dozen games at Triple-A (seven hits and three runs in 6 2/3 innings) after signing with the Bucs on Aug. 16. He'd been released by Tampa Bay after 39 relief appearances for the Rays.
"We like the experience," Hurdle said of Farnsworth, "and the intense desire to find his way back."
In new-look lineup, Walker bats leadoff for first time
PITTSBURGH -- The extent to which the Pirates' landscape has shifted in the last few days was evident on the clubhouse wall. The lineup posted for Game No. 136 was unlike any of the previous 135.
Only Nos. 3-4 were familiar guys in familiar spots, Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez. They were preceded by leadoff man Neil Walker and Garrett Jones in the two-hole, and followed in sequence by the real landscape shifters: newcomers Marlon Byrd, Justin Morneau and John Buck.
In the words of the man who brought them in, their presence "makes Clint's job easier."
"We've added depth, upgraded the everyday lineup and, as a result, also our bench," general manager Neal Huntington added. "We've got a lot of weapons to help us win a game."
Did manager Clint Hurdle's job really become easier, or more complex with the greater options? One thing seems certain: A set lineup is a thing of the past, and the revolving door has been oiled. That makes Hurdle's daily decisions critical. Is that easy?
"We're better," Hurdle echoed, "and that does make my job easier. My job is to use my eyes, ears and the voice of the staff, put people out there who are producing, and just watch them play."
All of Hurdle's senses told him to give Walker his first career start at the leadoff spot, an opportunity which "excited Neil" when tipped off Saturday night.
"It will give me a chance to see more pitches," Walker said. "But I'll still be as aggressive. I've been seeing the ball real good."
The personnel set to face St. Louis right-hander Joe Kelly led Hurdle to Walker. No one in the lineup, with the exception of Jordy Mercer [who wound up in the eight-hole) could seriously be considered.
And there was something else.
"I thought, 'You know what?' He kind of resembles that kid who leads off for the other team over there," said Hurdle, referring to Cardinals second baseman, and National League All-Star, Matt Carpenter.
First number, last word
12: Number of different starting pitchers used by the Pirates this season, with Sunday starter Kris Johnson making it an even dozen. All last season, the Bucs called on 10 starters.
"Other people are catching on to what I knew. By continuing to be diligent, he's earning the awareness of some people within our industry who weren't aware before." -- Hurdle on general manager Neal Huntington, whose moves have built a solid platform for earning the MLB Executive of the Year Award
• As a showdown between top National League MVP candidates, this series flopped through the first two games, with both McCutchen (0-for-9, with five strikeouts) and Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina (0-for-7) hitless entering Sunday's finale.
• Hurdle confirmed that Jason Grilli gave "a very sound performance" Saturday in his first rehab start for Double-A Altoona, as reflected by his line (one hit in a 13-pitch scoreless inning), and that he will repeat the drill with the Curve on Monday.
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.