Pirates' Opening Day rotation down to Locke

Pirates' Opening Day rotation down to Locke

Pirates' Opening Day rotation down to Locke

PITTSBURGH -- In the thick of an escalating National League Central race, the Pirates are giving that trite baseball adage that "you can never have too much pitching" a major test.

In the middle of a weeklong homestand, the Bucs found themselves down to only one cog of their season-opening starting rotation: Jeff Locke, moved up for Friday's start against the Dodgers in place of A.J. Burnett, placed on the 15-day disabled list with a right calf strain.

Locke, the 25-year-old southpaw who missed 2013 rookie status by one inning, is also only one of two active pitchers who had any starts for the club in 2012. And that includes Charlie Morton, who only Thursday night resurfaced from a year's rehab from Tommy John surgery; 147 of last season's 162 starts are either gone or on the DL.

Yet there were the Pirates taking the Major Leagues' fourth-best record into the finale of the series against the Giants.

"It's the most depth we've ever had here," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "That was part of the plan going in; I loved the rotation depth. We're in a pretty good place."

Behind Morton and Locke, the current rotation also includes left-hander Francisco Liriano, who has been very sharp since completing his recovery from a right arm fracture, and Gerrit Cole, even sharper in his Major League debut Tuesday.

Three starters on the disabled list -- Wandy Rodriguez and surprising Jeanmar Gomez in addition to Burnett -- have been among the Bucs' most dependable through the season's first two months. Another starter on the DL, James McDonald, had an All-Star caliber first half to his 2012 season and hopes remain high he can reclaim that stature.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. Steven Petrella is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.