PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates had hoped to keep Clayton Richard in the Indianapolis on-deck circle until circumstances forced a call for starting pitching help, but even with the veteran left-hander's deal into the Cubs' rotation, manager Clint Hurdle remains comfortable with the Bucs' supply of standby arms.
"We've lost surplus. We lost depth in our depth," Hurdle said Saturday afternoon. "But I still think we're in a place where we're covered. If we lose two starters, that might change."
The Bucs' so-called "next-man-up" agenda -- by this time a year ago, they had gone through eight starting pitchers -- has taken several major hits in the first half of this season.
It began with Brandon Cumpton's springtime Tommy John surgery, continued with Casey Sadler going on Indianapolis' disabled list a couple weeks ago with right forearm tightness, and now Richard is gone and Jameson Taillon, a late-season possibility as he recovered from his own Tommy John procedure, is likely done for 2015 as he faces hernia surgery.
Moving up on the pecking order as a result is Radhames Liz, whom the Bucs tried to convert to relief work but has resumed starting for Indianapolis.
"His last two starts have been good," Hurdle reported. "More in line with the numbers we saw in winter ball."
Those Dominican Winter League numbers were indeed spectacular: Liz went 4-0 in five starts with Estrellas de Oriente, with a 1.90 ERA and 29 strikeouts to five walks in 23 2/3 innings.
As for Richard being able to force the move through the so-called "upward mobility" clause in his contract, Hurdle felt good about the entire process.
"It backs up everything we said to him," the manager stressed. "We said we'd do everything we could to help this man work his way back to the Major Leagues. We've done that. That's who we are."
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.