PITTSBURGH -- Jeff Locke's return to the PNC Park mound could be only a couple days away. Due to Thursday's late afternoon doubleheader, the Pirates will need a spot starter for Monday against the Giants -- unless they want to bring back either Charlie Morton or Brandon Cumpton on short rest.
That's not going to happen, even though Morton, who has started once on three days' rest, features the sinker ball, a pitch said to become more effective when thrown with a slightly-tired arm. However, he is less than a year into his comeback from Tommy John surgery, so the Bucs are not going to push him.
Locke started Thursday night for Triple-A Indianapolis at Pawtucket, but was removed after two innings.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said the club is "possibly" considering the 2013 National League All-Star for the Monday night assignment.
"It's giving us another option to look towards," Hurdle said of Locke's early hook. "But it's far from having been decided."
Locke has hardly been doing irresistible work with the Indians. In four starts, including the abbreviated outing, he has allowed 12 earned runs and 24 hits in 19 innings, with five walks and 17 strikeouts.
Hurdle appreciates lineup's patience despite results
PITTSBURGH -- There were many reasons Thursday afternoon-evening had to be one of the most maddening days in the long career of Clint Hurdle.
Start with twin losses to the Orioles, add 28 men left on base (a club-high for a twin bill in the last 40 years), include 6-for-30 with men in scoring position ... and still none of that may be what most ate at the Buccos' manager.
Try this: His batters bought impressively into Hurdle's sermons, executed faithfully.
Hurdle was moved to compliment the lineup's plate patience for "improving. We got men on base with regularity."
And it still didn't bring the desired results.
Making pitchers work is a critical aspect of the approach. And Pirates hitters forced the Orioles to deliver 375 pitches in the two games -- 78 more than their own hurlers -- and worked their way to 22 three-ball counts.
Yet … the Bucs could turn only half of those three-ball counts into walks.
Perhaps most frustrating, they let Game 2 starter Chris Tillman survive a 49-pitch first inning to work gamely into the fifth.
"You'd like to think you can push him out earlier than we did," Hurdle said. "But, conversely, he threw strikes after that, spun the ball better and seemed to get in a better rhythm. The dynamic kinda changed [when Tillman began throwing first-pitch strikes]."
After the 49 pitches in the first, Tillman needed 63 more to go two outs into the fifth. The inability to dig a deeper hole for him came back to haunt the Pirates in the 10-inning, 6-5 defeat.
First number, last word
1.63: Pirates' pitchers composite earned run average last season in 10 Interleague games at PNC Park.
"I laid my head down at 5 … and I'm just happy to be home, for us to have a chance to win some games. So I'm looking at the good side; I haven't even looked at the other side." - Hurdle, on the Pirates' near-dawn homecoming after Thursday's doubleheader in Baltimore.
• Lefty Tony Watson, who needed 33 pitches to shut out Baltimore in the eighth inning of Thursday's second game, was not available Friday. Hurdle believed it was Watson's first 30-pitch inning for the Bucs -- in 191 relief outings going back to the start of the 2011 season.
• Following the post-midnight end of the Baltimore nightcap, the Pirates' charter touched down at Pittsburgh International Airport at 3:33 a.m. EST, and most of the travel squad hit pillows at about 5 a.m.
• The Reds' Alfredo Simon finished April with a record of 4-1 and ERA of 1.60. The last prior Cincinnati pitcher with four wins and a sub-2.00 ERA entering May? Edinson Volquez, who was 4-0 with a 1.23 ERA in 2008.
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.