Hurdle shuffles rotation to begin second half

Morton, Liriano, Locke pitching in Milwaukee, with Burnett, Cole set to open series vs. Royals

Hurdle shuffles rotation to begin second half

MILWAUKEE -- Taking advantage of the flexibility offered by the four-day All-Star break, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle has shuffled his starting rotation according to preference and necessity.

Charlie Morton leads off against the Brewers and will be followed by Francisco Liriano and Jeff Locke. Then A.J. Burnett and Gerrit Cole will start the first two games of the upcoming series in Kansas City.

All season, the Bucs have gone Liriano, Vance Worley-and-then-Morton, Cole, Locke and Burnett. The new spin allowed Hurdle to enact some desired alterations, though it would have been impossible to follow through on all.

Primarily, he wanted to delay Cole, who pitched in Tuesday's All-Star Game, and fellow All-Star Burnett, who leads the staff with 119 1/3 innings, as much as possible. And to not give Morton and Locke, whose last starts were on July 8 and 9, respectively, too much down time.

"In a perfect world, I wanted to break up [lefties] Locke and Liriano, and Morton and Burnett, and keep Morton and Locke separated," Hurdle said. "I can't have it all."

One upside of the shakeup is having Burnett, the former American Leaguer who has made six starts in the Royals' Kauffman Stadium, and Cole, with his 7-1 lifetime record against AL clubs, working the upcoming Interleague series.

Touching all the bases

• First: By Friday afternoon's signing deadline, the Bucs had in the fold 33 of their 41 picks in last month's MLB Draft; the highest unsigned selection was 23rd rounder Jacob McCarthy.

• Second: The Pirates have pulled the plug on the rehab assignment of Corey Hart (original shoulder impingement OK, now knee an issue), who is here to show what he can do at bat before the staff determines the next move.

• Third: Think No. 1 prospect Tyler Glasnow had a pretty decent week? The right-hander went 13 shutout innings in a pair of starts (vs. Bowie and Richmond) with Double-A Altoona, allowing only four hits and no walks while fanning 16.

• Home: Opening second-half play in Miller Park is the perfect place to let the Pirates know they can't rest on a 53-win first half. The Brewers took 53 wins into the 2014 All-Star break, then fell apart to add only 29 more wins.

"I guess there's some common fabric there," Hurdle said. "These guys are ready to go. They're well aware of what needs to be done."

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.