Hurdle not surprised by Holdzkom's success

Hurdle not surprised by Holdzkom's success

PITTSBURGH -- As far as most people are concerned, John Holdzkom has taken baseball by storm as one of the game's best "overnight success" stories ever. A 26-year-old reliever pitching in a pennant race 10 weeks after being in independent ball, and a few months after earning $200 a month in an Australian league? Yeah, the description fits.

Those not amazed are the Pirates, who signed Holdzkom on June 23. In fact, Holdzkom is merely living up to manager Clint Hurdle's expectations.

"Going in, I was looking for things from Holdzkom based on the reports I got from Dean Treanor and Tom Filer," said Hurdle, referring to the manager and pitching coach, respectively, of Triple-A Indianapolis.

Holdzkom had spent his first week in the Pittsburgh organization with Double-A Altoona, where he fanned 10 in six innings, then got a quick bump-up to the Indians, with whom he posted a 2.49 ERA in 18 appearances.

"So I wasn't really reluctant," Hurdle said. "I wanted to see him on the mound, just to get him some footing, then push him, see where he can go. You always wonder until you have an opportunity to do it -- and he's gotten off to a nice start."

Lefty Bobby LaFromboise, himself out of nowhere, and Holdzkom could both be instrumental down the stretch.

"This time of the year, you like to have five [dependable arms in the bullpen]. We've had four -- I believe we now have five, might even have six," said Hurdle. "You want to get your bullpen in its best position late, and we very well could be headed there."

Worth noting

Starling Marte (left elbow) took early batting practice before Friday's opener vs. the Cubs to test whether he could swing the bat. It obviously did not go too well, as he was out of the starting lineup. Marte was hit on the joint by an A.J. Burnett pitch in the second inning Thursday, and left the game an inning later.

• With his Thursday gem, Francisco Liriano became the second Pittsburgh lefty since 1914 to claim two shutout starts with at least 12 strikeouts and no more than four hits allowed. Liriano, who first did it on Aug. 19, 2013, in San Diego, joined Bob Veale, who had such games in 1965-66.

First number, last word

.344: Russell Martin's average in PNC Park this season entering Friday night's game. Last season, his first with the Pirates, Martin batted .211 in home games.

"We play and play and play ... it's been a road well-traveled, and we're going to enjoy playing in front of our fans for the last time this season."
-- Hurdle, whose Bucs opened their final homestand of the season on Friday night.

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. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.