Cervelli ready for game action with foot feeling better

Cervelli ready for game action with foot feeling better

PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates are nearly back at full strength.

Pittsburgh had four players dinged up in Thursday's series finale at Marlins Park. Two of them returned to the starting lineup this weekend, a third was poised to before Monday's postponement at PNC Park and their final bruise may be healed in time for Tuesday's doubleheader against the Mets.

Andrew McCutchen (sore right thumb) came back Friday, Jordy Mercer (bruised left elbow) returned Saturday and catcher Francisco Cervelli would have started Monday night after sitting out all weekend with a badly bruised right foot. He was in the lineup, batting sixth and catching, before the game was postponed due to rain.

Cervelli was hit by a pitch in the second inning of Thursday's game and left while squatting behind the plate in the third. He was unavailable on Friday and Saturday, leaving Chris Stewart as Pittsburgh's only active catcher. But Cervelli began rounding into form on Sunday, and manager Clint Hurdle noticed.

When Cervelli walked into the dugout during the Pirates' 5-4 loss to the Angels, Hurdle jokingly asked him, in reference to the three-day break new fathers receive, "How's the paternity leave?"

"I actually got a laugh out of him," Hurdle said. "It's good to have him back."

Meanwhile, another day off may work out well for corner infielder David Freese. After being hit by a pitch in Thursday's series finale in Miami, Freese sat out all weekend and wasn't in Monday's lineup.

Freese struggled in recent days to even grip a bat, but he's made significant strides toward an eventual return. He took batting practice in the indoor cages and hit on the field Monday afternoon, seemingly the final step before a return to the lineup.

"The strength is a lot better. It's pretty much back," Freese said. "It's just the soreness and the contusion it caused. Just have to work through it. ... We're progressing as fast as we can."

Minor matters
• Center fielder Austin Meadows, the Pirates' No. 2 prospect, was named the Eastern League Player of the Week. The 21-year-old hit .444 with five triples and two homers, scored nine runs, drove in six and stole two bases for Double-A Altoona.

Meadows, the ninth overall pick in the 2013 Draft, missed the start of the season due to an orbital fracture, but he seems to be making up for lost time. MLBPipeline's No. 16 overall prospect entered Monday with a 14-game hitting streak and eight triples, the most in Double-A and tied for the second most in the Minor Leagues.

• Prospects Taylor Gushue, Luis Heredia, Connor Joe and Kevin Newman were named Florida State League Mid-Season All-Stars. Newman, the Pirates' No. 11 prospect and first-round pick a year ago, won't play in the game as he is on the disabled list with an orbital fracture. He leads the Florida State League in batting average (.346) and on-base percentage (.414).

Heredia, once a highly touted international prospect signed to a $2.6 million bonus, has posted a career-low 0.73 ERA and 0.85 WHIP after converting into a reliever. Pitching a second straight season for Class A Advanced Bradenton, Heredia is 3-0 with four saves and 15 games finished. He was 5-6 with a 5.44 ERA and a 1.73 WHIP in 21 starts last season.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.