Osuna may get more work at 3rd base

Rookie could increase flexibility with 'long-term vision' in mind

Osuna may get more work at 3rd base

PITTSBURGH -- Don't pencil his name into the lineup just yet, but Jose Osuna may be getting some more pregame work at third base during the second half of the season.

The past two days, Osuna has fielded ground balls at third under the watchful eye of infield coach Joey Cora in an attempt to improve the powerful rookie's defensive versatility. This isn't an entirely new assignment for Osuna, who spent some time at third during Spring Training.

"They want to see if I can play third," Osuna said. "It's another position. I can play left, right, first. Third is another chance to play a little bit more."

The timing is also interesting. Josh Bell is locked in at first base for the foreseeable future, as is Gregory Polanco in right field. Osuna has been part of Pittsburgh's group effort in left field, but suspended left fielder Starling Marte will return Tuesday.

Osuna entered Friday's second-half opener with a .245/.286/.468 slash line, five homers and 22 RBIs. His bat has proven worthy of big league playing time. The Bucs have a starting third baseman in David Freese and utility infielders such as Adam Frazier, Phil Gosselin and Max Moroff to back him up.

Still, why not work to increase Osuna's flexibility with what manager Clint Hurdle called the "long-term vision" in mind?

"He's got a lot on his plate right now. It was just getting him at third base with some direction," Hurdle said. "We don't know if [winter ball in Venezuela is] going to be an option this year, so we're just trying to figure some things out on what we can do moving forward with him that makes sense.

"We'll probably just work him out some days to see what flexibility he can provide and go from there."

Around the horn
• The Pirates slightly tweaked their rotation, bumping up Jameson Taillon to start Saturday and pushing back Chad Kuhl to start Monday. Kuhl started for Taillon (food poisoning) on Sunday at Wrigley Field, so the Bucs opted to give Kuhl extra rest.

Trevor Williams will start between Taillon and Kuhl, and Ivan Nova -- who's already thrown 120 2/3 innings this season -- will start Tuesday against the Brewers.

"We want to take care of the men involved in our rotation, first and foremost, rather than trying to overcook this thing and set it up case-specific," Hurdle said.

• The Pirates on Thursday released lefty reliever Antonio Bastardo, who was designated for assignment last Saturday.

• Pittsburgh released right-hander Josh Lindblom from the Triple-A Indianapolis roster, allowing him to sign with the Korea Baseball Organization's Lotte Giants, for whom he pitched in 2015-16. Lindblom spoke highly of the experience, but he returned to the United States last winter to be closer to his daughter, Monroe, who was born with a rare congenital heart defect.

• Marte is scheduled to complete his Minor League assignment this weekend with Indianapolis, return to Pittsburgh on Monday and rejoin the Pirates on Tuesday, when his 80-game suspension ends. Marte entered Friday batting .273/.385/.409 in six Triple-A games. He has mostly played left field, where he will start for the Pirates, and he started once in center.

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