Vogelsong could be one start from Bucs return

Veteran right-hander threw 83 pitches over seven innings in last rehab outing

Vogelsong could be one start from Bucs return

MILWAUKEE -- Ryan Vogelsong's pain in the neck may have been a blessing in disguise.

Vogelsong was eligible to return from the 60-day disabled list on Saturday, but he left his July 20 rehab start after four innings due to neck stiffness -- an inconveniently timed injury caused by hotel beds, long flights and an aggressive swing or two.

So Vogelsong made another rehab start for Triple-A Indianapolis on Wednesday and pitched well, allowing two runs on five hits and two walks while striking out two.

"The other day was definitely much better than the one before that," Vogelsong said. "I don't know if most of that was my neck, but I'm glad I made another one. I felt a lot better about the way I felt physically. ... It put me in a better mind frame about being ready."

Vogelsong threw 83 pitches over seven innings on Wednesday, perhaps an indication that he will start for the Pirates whenever he's activated.

The Pirates have three starters set in stone: Gerrit Cole, Francisco Liriano and Jameson Taillon. They shuffled in lefty Steven Brault on Friday, replacing the injured Tyler Glasnow and Chad Kuhl.

If he remains on schedule, Vogelsong's next start would come Monday, an off-day for the Pirates, and his next turn after that would be August 6, which is the next time Pittsburgh needs a fifth starter.

The veteran right-hander rejoined the Pirates at Miller Park on Friday, planning to throw a bullpen session on Saturday then uncertain what will happen after that.

"We'll see what happens," Vogelsong said.

Schugel sent back down
To make room on the roster for Brault to start on Friday, the Pirates optioned reliever A.J. Schugel to Triple-A.

With Jonathon Niese and Jeff Locke bumped to the bullpen, Pittsburgh had been carrying nine relievers and three starters before Friday's move. Since Schugel has Minor League options, he was the odd man out again.

Schugel was optioned to Triple-A on Saturday to make room for Glasnow, and he was recalled on Sunday when Glasnow was placed on the disabled list. Manager Clint Hurdle reiterated to Schugel that Friday's move was more about personnel than performance.

Schugel is 2-2 with a 3.86 ERA in 49 innings over 34 appearances for the Pirates.

"I was able to share that story with him two times in four days that it wasn't about performance," Hurdle said. "You have options. It's in the organization's best interest at the time to utilize the option. You had an option used this year; when you use if five or six times, that can be the hard part of it."

Meadows on the mend
Triple-A outfielder Austin Meadows, the Pirates' No. 2 prospect, joined short-season Class A West Virginia on Friday night to begin a rehab assignment. Meadows, the 12th-ranked prospect in baseball according to MLBPipeline.com, has been sidelined by a right hamstring strain since July 1.

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