Pirates sticking with Locke as starter

Team believes left-hander can make corrections in side sessions

Pirates sticking with Locke as starter

SAN FRANCISCO - Pirates manager Clint Hurdle on Monday headed off any uncertainty or controversy concerning Jeff Locke's spot in his rotation, giving the lefty both his next assignment and a strong vote of confidence.

Locke will take his next regular turn, in Saturday's middle game of the weekend series in Atlanta. Hurdle made that plain the day after Locke was scored upon in each of his four innings in San Diego, allowing a total of seven runs.

"I wanted to set the tone right away, let everyone know he's getting the ball," Hurdle said.

The obvious replacement for Locke would have been Vance Worley, who picked up for Locke on Sunday night and pitched four innings of his own, blanking the Padres in the 7-1 loss.

The manager did not make the decision to stay with Locke on his own. By all appearances, that came out of wide-ranging conversations with the pitcher, with pitching coach Ray Searage, even with general manager Neal Huntington.

"We believe there are some things he can work on on the side, and revisit some things mentally, from an attack mode and an arsenal mode," Hurdle said. "No. 1 is he's got to spike the fastball command. He's got to throw every pitch with conviction and make sure he stays in control of things he can control."

Hurdle and staff may have been as disillusioned Sunday night as fans in seeing Locke face 24 batters, allow 11 of them to reach and seven to score. Of his 89 pitches, eight provoked a missed swing.

Team brass, however, sees more.

"We are going to have patience with Jeff," Hurdle said. "We believe the upside is very real: A young lefty pitcher with some velocity to the fastball, he can two-seam it, throws the change. The outings have not been what he wants or what we need. He's cutting some teeth now.

"It goes with experience, knowing how to deal with adversity. When you don't have your 'A' game -- and you can't hope to have your best stuff every time out -- you've got to find a 'B' game."

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 and on his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.