Out of race, Pirates to play young players

Out of race, Pirates to play young players

PITTSBURGH -- With the Pirates officially eliminated from the postseason race, expect them to pivot away from a few banged-up regulars with an eye on the future.

The Bucs were mathematically bounced out of the National League Wild Card race late Tuesday night after losing to the Cubs and waking up to find the Giants had beaten the Rockies in San Francisco. Their younger players have seen the field quite a bit over the last two months, so there won't be many dramatic changes over the final five games.

But expect to see less of shortstop Jordy Mercer, nursing a forearm strain that affects his throwing, and catcher Francisco Cervelli, who hasn't been playing at full strength since undergoing surgery in June to repair a fractured hamate bone in his left hand.

"We're going to back away because of the workload he's carried and what he's had to play through," manager Clint Hurdle said of Cervelli. "He's still not 100 percent; to beat on that left hand much more doesn't make a lot of sense to me."

The Pirates won't force anything with outfielders Gregory Polanco (stiff neck) or Starling Marte (lower back tightness), either. Marte, who has missed most of September, grounded out as a pinch-hitter Tuesday night and went through a full pregame workout Wednesday afternoon. He was available off the bench, Hurdle said.

"We're running out of days for that to happen," Hurdle said. "Where it goes, I'm not sure yet."

With the Pirates out of the race, it is unlikely that reliever Neftali Feliz will pitch again this season, Hurdle said. Feliz has posted a 3.52 ERA with 61 strikeouts in 53 2/3 innings over 62 appearances, proving to be a valuable weapon out of the bullpen as a seventh-inning reliever in front of closer Mark Melancon, then the eighth-inning setup man for closer Tony Watson after Melancon was traded to the Nationals. Feliz has not appeared in a game since Sept. 3.

And the Pirates will continue to play "the kids." Josh Bell started Wednesday night in right field, with Adam Frazier at second base. Alen Hanson -- who will be out of Minor League options next year, thus entering camp as a front-runner for a spot on the bench -- will see some time at second base, Hurdle said.

Top prospect Tyler Glasnow will start Friday night in St. Louis, and rookie right-hander Chad Kuhl will start Saturday afternoon. The Pirates have not yet announced who will start Sunday's season finale against the Cardinals. It could be veteran Ryan Vogelsong, making his scheduled turn, or a younger arm currently in the bullpen like Drew Hutchison, Trevor Williams or Steven Brault.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.