Kontos tosses perfect 8th in Pirates' debut

Veteran reliever pleasantly surprised to join club via waivers from Giants

Kontos tosses perfect 8th in Pirates' debut

PITTSBURGH -- In the days leading up to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, Giants officials informed George Kontos he was drawing interest from other teams. When the Deadline passed, there was a sigh of relief. He would remain in San Francisco, his professional home since 2012.

"The farthest thing from my mind was the revocable waiver thing," Kontos said Monday afternoon before tossing a 1-2-3 eighth in the Pirates' 3-0 victory over the Tigers at PNC Park.

But that's how the Pirates acquired the veteran right-handed reliever, surprising as it may have been for him when he heard the news Saturday morning. Pittsburgh's front office had discussed Kontos as a trade target. He's under club control through 2019. He has an impressive track record. He's pitched in every situation and in meaningful games, earning two World Series rings with the Giants.

So when the Giants put Kontos on revocable waivers, the Pirates placed a claim. Best-case scenario, they would get a chance to acquire a pitcher they liked. Worst-case scenario, their claim would keep competitors with better records away from Kontos. The Giants didn't retain Kontos or request compensation, so the Pirates got their man.

Kontos induces double play

"A guy we had interest in, a guy we intended to claim and to block, ended up becoming a Pirate," general manager Neal Huntington said Sunday. "That's the best of all worlds."

Kontos joined the Pirates on Monday, and the Bucs optioned reliever Dovydas Neverauskas to Triple-A Indianapolis to make room in their bullpen. Manager Clint Hurdle said Kontos likely will pitch in the seventh or eighth inning, whether with a lead or while trailing, and could enter innings with men on base given his tendency to induce ground balls.

"Just excited. I've been very fortunate in my career," Kontos said. "The opportunity to go to the playoffs, it doesn't come around that often. Whenever you have an opportunity to go, it's a lot of fun. These games are definitely very meaningful, and I'm looking forward to getting in the action."

There were some familiar faces in the Pirates' clubhouse. Kontos pitched to Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart in the Yankees' system, and he was traded for Stewart in 2012. Kontos knew Ivan Nova from their time with the Yankees, and he was introduced to Gerrit Cole through Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford, Cole's brother-in-law.

"This guy is not a power pitcher. He's always been the same," Cervelli said. "When he's on the mound, he looks so confident, especially with the slider. He played on a team where he won a World Series, so he knows how to do it. I think it's going to be an amazing thing for us."

The first phone call Kontos made after the move was to former Pirates pitcher Ryan Vogelsong, his teammate in San Francisco from 2012-15. He also received a text message from ex-Pirate J.A. Happ, one of his Northwestern University teammates. They expressed a similar sentiment: You're going to love working with pitching coach Ray Searage.

"I've introduced myself to everybody, and everyone's made me feel very welcome," Kontos said. "It's been a pretty easy transition so far."

Around the horn

• Closer Felipe Rivero was not available Monday night after throwing 41 pitches during his first blown save Sunday afternoon. Rivero's velocity dropped and his command worsened as the outing wore on, clearly tiring as he attempted to secure another four-out save.

"Just one of those days you forget about. It's tough to forget 41 pitches, but that's all you can do," Rivero said Monday. "Just come back and do the same thing I was doing. It's one day. It doesn't matter for me."

• Outfielder Danny Ortiz, who was designated for assignment Saturday, cleared waivers before being assigned outright to Triple-A.

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.