PHILADELPHIA -- The Pirates entered Thursday's series finale at Citizens Bank Park boasting the second-best bullpen in the Majors with a 1.78 ERA. Part of that has to do with the work of setup man Mark Melancon, who allowed only one run in his first 13 innings of work, and closer Jason Grilli, who is a perfect 9-for-9 in save opportunities to start the season. But the pair of relievers were unavailable for the final leg of a four-game set in Philadelphia.
"Neither Mark [who pitched four of the past five days] nor Jason [four of the past six] are available," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "Not having a closer and an eighth-inning guy has nothing to do with bullpen being overworked. It has to do with us having the lead late in games back-to-back nights."
In fact, Hurdle views only Melancon as a concern at this time. Melancon has logged a team-high 13 innings, but it's not those numbers that matter. Instead, it's the multiple-day efforts that factor into Hurdle's thinking.
"We've been able to manage," Hurdle said. "The [amount of] appearances for Mark are a red line for me. Everybody else is in a place we're OK with.
"You look at the big picture. You could get a win today and then lose him for a month later. It's a balance. There will be a time where he will be able to go three days. We're not out of April, and I don't like too many three-days appearances in a month, let alone the first month of the season. That gives other guys a challenge. You have to be smart with your people and realize they are people and not just arms."
Inge gets another start amid hot Bucs debut
PHILADELPHIA -- In just two games, Brandon Inge has already ingratiated himself into the Pirates' clubhouse and manager Clint Hurdle's good graces.
Inge started Tuesday in his first game back from the disabled list and promptly hit an RBI double in a 2-0 win. Then he hit a pinch-hit bases-loaded single Wednesday to give the Pirates the lead in a 5-3 win. Inge is 5-for-12 in his career as a pinch-hitter, but it's something he knows he'll have to learn, especially over the next six games, when he comes primarily off the bench against right-handed starting pitchers.
"He was going to play somewhere," Hurdle said Thursday morning, after penciling in Inge at second base against Phillies starter Cliff Lee, against whom Inge enters hitting .372 (16-for-43) with three home runs and 18 RBIs. "He's going to have some numbers against people that are substantial just because of the time he's played. We'll see how this plays out. You like the matchup, and there should be some type of comfort going in.
"We knew on the back end of the trip there are six right-handed starters. That doesn't eliminate him, but wanted to maximize his time in rehab to make him ready to compete. He's already played two different positions in the infield and today will be a third."
• Hurdle admitted he felt bad for shortstop John McDonald on Wednesday night. McDonald hit two balls hard for outs, one a diving catch at second by Chase Utley and a second diving catch in left field by Domonic Brown.
"Those were fantastic Major League plays," Hurdle said. "The second baseman goes horizontal on one, and then the left fielder goes horizontal. Those things don't happen in the Minor Leagues, they happen up here due to the skill set. It was good the at-bats were clean. He's been around long enough to feel good about those at-bats. If [Brown] isn't 6-foot-5 or whatever he is, it's a different story."
• The Pirates begin a three-game set at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on Friday night. One player looking forward to the trip will be Pedro Alvarez, who has had a great run at Busch over his past 10 games. He hit .375 (15-for-40) in that stretch with three doubles, four home runs and 14 RBIs. His last at-bat ended with a 19th-inning home run, the only home run in team history that came in the 19th inning.
Mike Radano is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.