PITTSBURGH -- A.J. Burnett's contributions on the mound have thus far been limited to only one game -- he's set to make his second start on Friday to kick off a seven-game road trip in Atlanta -- but the veteran right-hander's off-field impact has already been more pronounced.Manager Clint Hurdle has not shied from giving Burnett a role implied by his stature. "He's been in a mentoring mode, when appropriate. He's taken to task a couple of guys I've asked him to deal with," Hurdle said. Quick evidence of that generic comment came minutes later, as James McDonald started his impressive seven innings of one-hit ball in the 2-1 loss to the Rockies in the opener of Wednesday's doubleheader. McDonald has been one of the pitchers to whom Burnett has been dispensing advice -- and offering positive reinforcement. "A.J.'s been talking to me a lot about mental preparation," McDonald said between games. "After I came out today, he said my mental approach was a lot better. He liked my focus." There was little to not like, as McDonald dismissed Colorado on a solitary hit, a seventh-inning infield single by Troy Tulowitzki. "It's having that bullpen mentality right from the first inning," McDonald said, "getting it going right away."
Hughes lends hand for twin bill, heads to Hall
PITTSBURGH -- Until Tuesday night, Jared Hughes wasn't even aware of the new rule permitting teams to add a 26th player for doubleheaders. But when the right-hander took the call in Indianapolis, he was on his way to PNC Park.And now, the 26-year-old rookie right-hander is on his way to the Hall of Fame. Well, the dugout lineup card which reflects his Game 1 appearance is on the way to Cooperstown. Hughes made history by appearing as the first 26th man when he blanked the Rockies in the ninth inning of the Bucs' 2-1 loss in the opener of Wednesday's doubleheader. Between games, a Hall representative called the Pirates, asking for the lineup card to put on display. "Very cool," a beaming Hughes said, on his way back to Indianapolis, per 26th-man exception rules. The Rockies also added a 26th player for Wednesday's twin bill, right-hander Zach Putnam, but he did not take the mound until the nightcap. Hughes began the season with the Bucs and was optioned to Triple-A on Saturday, when his spot on the roster was needed as A.J. Burnett was jumped into the rotation while Kevin Correia dealt with discomfort on his left side. The Pirates also considered adding left-hander Daniel Moskos, for more matchup possibilities, but ultimately concluded that Hughes' versatility would be more valuable. "We felt very good and very comfortable bringing him back," manager Clint Hurdle said. "He left here pitching well. He did nothing to earn a demotion, other than the stable got full." With Wednesday's cameo, Hughes lowered his ERA to 1.86 for six appearances with the Bucs.
Hanrahan no stranger to double-dipping
PITTSBURGH -- Shaky while recording his first two saves of the season, Joel Hanrahan returned to 2011 form in nailing down Tuesday night's 5-4 victory over the Rockies.
With the tight hamstring that had shut him down for several days last week totally out of his mind, Hanrahan needed only 16 pitches for the three-up, three-down inning.With Wednesday's doubleheader on tap, he was asked in the morning whether he'd ever pitched twice in one day. "Yep. Did it against these guys," said Hanrahan, cocking his head toward the visitors' locker room housing the Rockies. Indeed, on Aug. 7, 2008, Hanrahan, then with the Washington Nationals, saved both ends of a doubleheader in Denver. Interestingly, those were the second and third saves of his career. Clint Hurdle, Colorado's manager at the time, admitted not remembering that double-duty performance. "But now that I know he can do it, maybe ..." Hurdle said, grinning.
The Bucs played errorless ball in both games of Wednesday's doubleheader, giving them a streak of 45 innings without a miscue. With their nails pitching, it comes as no surprise that the Pirates are undefeated (5-0) when they manage to score at least four runs. That was also the early plot line last season, when the Bucs won 40 of the first 48 times they reached four runs; thereafter, in a complete turnaround, they went 16-18 under those conditions. Brad Eldred, who divided his 85-game Major League career between the Pirates and the Rockies, still chases the dream with Detroit's Triple-A club and on Tuesday night clubbed three homers to raise his season total to 12 in 19 games. A 2002 sixth-round Draft pick by the Bucs, Eldred hit 12 homers in 55 games with them in '05, but couldn't follow up that production. Even after Charlie Morton was rewarded with the victory for his seven innings of six-hit ball in the nightcap, it only improved Pittsburgh starters' cumulative record to 3-7 -- despite a collective ERA of 2.58. Garrett Jones' two-run homer in the fifth inning of Game 2 ended a team streak of 10 solo homers in 22 games since last Sept. 23 -- when Jones clocked a two-run shot against the Reds. The Last Word: "I had a no-hitter. Two more innings -- that's all I needed." -- James McDonald, on what ran through his mind when he returned to the dugout after giving up an infield single in the seventh inning of the opener.
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.