PITTSBURGH -- It was the nightcap of a May 18 doubleheader anyway and the Pirates were facing a Yankees left-hander, so Josh Harrison got a start at third base in Pedro Alvarez's place -- and, like the houseguest who won't leave, he's made himself at home in the Bucs' lineup.
Harrison made his 20th consecutive start Sunday and had hit .317, while driving in 10 runs and scoring 13 others, in the first 19.
It is beginning to sound like the typical "overnight" success story -- the 26-year-old Harrison is in his seventh pro season, much of the last four in the Majors -- and Clint Hurdle was asked if he had witnessed a previous, similar breakthrough.
The Pirates manager had no trouble coming up with a name: Chone Figgins, whom Hurdle had managed as a 1997-2001 Minor Leaguer in the Colorado organization. In July 2001, the Rockies dealt Figgins to the Angels.
"He went to the Angels as a super-utility guy, they plugged him into the lineup and he didn't come out for three years," Hurdle said.
Figgins roamed around Angel Stadium for a couple of years -- center and left field, shortstop, second -- then became a fixture at two positions, center field then third base.
"Guy's playing all over the place, gets put in the lineup -- good day, good day, good day. Same type of scenario," said Hurdle, connecting the dot to Harrison.
Figgins' reward was a four-year, $35 million contract as a free agent in 2010 from Seattle, where things did not work out for him. The Mariners released him during Spring Training in '13. Figgins recently returned to the Majors with the Dodgers.
Shoulder fatigue lands Bucs' Cole on DL
PITTSBURGH -- Pirates right-hander Gerrit Cole landed on the 15-day disabled list Sunday because of fatigue in his right shoulder. The move is retroactive to Wednesday.
Cole, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, is 6-3 with a 3.64 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP. Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said Cole first told the team of shoulder issues playing catch on Wednesday, the day after his last start.
Huntington noted the team considered having Cole miss just one start, but ultimately decided a move to the disabled list was for the best.
"It was a group decision, made in the best interest of the team," Cole said following the Bucs' 1-0 loss to Milwaukee on Sunday. "We'll deal with it, rather than prolong it and hope for the best. It's been gradually onsetting, and I just didn't bounce back the way I anticipated after the last start."
"We felt like it was probably better to be aggressive now, get ahead of it and give him some down time to get that fatigue out of there," Huntington said.
The GM said Cole will be activated when his 15 days on the DL are up, if "everything goes to plan." Huntington added all tests done on Cole's shoulder have pointed to fatigue and made no mention of structural damage.
Left-hander Jeff Locke was called up from Triple-A Indianapolis to start Sunday, and sinkerballer Charlie Morton had his assignment pushed back a day to face the Cubs on Monday in what would've been Cole's next start.
"It's frustrating," Cole said of his first career DL stint, "but hopefully we can nip this in the bud. We've come up with some rehab work, and I feel much better than I did a few days ago. I hadn't experienced anything similar to this in the past. I just couldn't bounce back."
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said he's seen some "red flags" from the 23-year-old Cole recently. Those indicators included lack of consistency and the volume of pitches Cole has thrown.
In Cole's most recent start, he went 5 2/3 innings and limited the Padres to one run on four hits. But Cole's pitch count hit triple digits before the end of the sixth inning, leading Hurdle to turn to his bullpen.
"He's pitched a little bit less efficient this year than he did a year ago," Huntington said. "He's had more pitches per inning, he's pitching with a little bit more baserunners on a consistent level, which means a little bit more stress. So even before Gerrit made us aware that his shoulder felt a little bit tired, we'd been talking about ... Clint had actually been more aggressive getting him out of the game an inning early vs. an inning later."
Cole has pitched into the seventh inning just once in his past five starts, allowing three runs on six hits to the Dodgers in 6 1/3 innings on May 29. He tossed just 88 pitches in that outing, his lowest pitch count of the season. Cole has thrown 100 or more pitches in seven of his 12 outings this year, and he has logged 205 innings since he debuted for the Pirates almost exactly a year ago, including the 2013 postseason.
"We're just taking it day by day," pitching coach Ray Searage said. "We noticed some things the last time he pitched and just want to be cautious. Stuff like this can happen to a young pitcher. Hey, he's 23."
Bucs anticipate top prospect Polanco's callup
PITTSBURGH -- There are many conversations surrounding Gregory Polanco in the Steel City. Almost all of which ask the same question: when will he get here?
But once the Pirates' prized and productive prospect does arrive, there's another question those in the organization will have to ask: where does he hit in the order?
Polanco was recently moved up to leadoff spot for Triple-A Indianapolis, and he's continued to tear the cover off the ball. But that does not necessarily mean he'll be first in the order when he starts wearing a Pirates uniform.
Josh Harrison has settled into the Bucs' leadoff role in the last three weeks. Harrison carried a 10-game hitting streak into Sunday's series finale against the Brewers and is batting .330 with 18 runs scored and a .911 OPS when he hits first in the order this season.
Harrison has primarily played right field, the same position as Polanco, but is the most versatile player on the Pirates' roster and has played both corner outfield spots, third base, second base and shortstop this season. Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said not knowing who to bat first between Harrison and Polanco would be a "great problem to have," and he hinted at scenarios in which they're both in the lineup with Harrison leading off.
"It's hard to take that sparkplug out of the lineup," Huntington said of Harrison. "That'd be a great thing, to be able to drop Gregory to a less demanding role.
"If Josh continues to play the way he has and the offense continues to roll the way it has in the last five to six weeks, Gregory can come in and be a guy. He doesn't have to be the guy."
Polanco, ranked as the No. 12 prospect in baseball by MLB.com, has a .350 average, .409 on-base percentage, seven homers and 49 RBIs in 61 games for Indianapolis. Fans in Pittsburgh have been clamoring for the 22-year-old's arrival all season, especially in recent weeks. Polanco will get here eventually, but Huntington didn't shed any light on the specific timing of Polanco's inevitable promotion.
"Our goal is to bring him here when we feel it's the right time," Huntington said. "In an ideal world, we'd like to get him some more plate appearances down there. What he's doing has allowed us to shorten that time frame a little bit."
Davis gets breather after tough start to June
PITTSBURGH -- With a .326 average and .408 on-base percentage, Ike Davis had a terrific month of May. However, Davis doesn't have a hit in June.
The slumping first baseman is 0-for-19 this month and was out of the Pirates' Sunday lineup against Milwaukee righty Yovani Gallardo. Davis, a left-handed hitter, usually gets his days off against southpaws, but manager Clint Hurdle said he anticipates Davis won't start for the next three games -- the Bucs face Cubs right-hander Edwin Jackson on Monday and lefty Travis Wood the following day.
"Ike's been challenged offensively here the past 10 days," Hurdle said. "He hit a [blast] in L.A., but the at-bats have been challenging. ... I'm going to give him some time to work on some things."
The blast Hurdle spoke of was a pivotal homer Davis hit in a 2-1 win against the Dodgers on May 30. But since that game, his average has dropped 30 points to .244, and he has struck out in five of six contests this month.
Gaby Sanchez, who is hitting fourth Sunday, is set to start in Davis' place over the next few days. Sunday will mark Sanchez's 20th start of the 2014 campaign, and he has a .265/.314/.531 slash line. Sanchez also has had some previous success against Gallardo, going 8-for-30 (.267) with two homers.
Davis is the second case this week of a Pirate getting some time off because of a slump. Left fielder Starling Marte's average has dipped to .234 after a 1-for-25 streak. Marte is back in the lineup Sunday after not starting the last four games.
First number, last word
17-9: The Pirates' record in the month of June last season, tied with Toronto for the Major League's best. They took a record of 4-2 this June into Sunday's game.
"When we first told him about [our emphasis on getting outs on] three pitches or less, he went nuts with it and went from a guy who led the league in walks to a guy throwing too many strikes -- which seems weird to say, but it is what happened." -- Hurdle, on Edinson Volquez's early problems with giving up home runs.
• Pedro Alvarez entered Sunday's game with 35 RBIs, second among National League third basemen to Casey McGehee, the former popular Buccos utilityman now with Miami.
• A dozen different Pirates players have driven in 10-plus runs, the most in the NL; Colorado is next with 10 double-figure RBI men.
• In Friday night's game, Russell Martin (3-for-3 with three runs scored and four driven in) became the second Pirates catcher ever with that batting line; Ryan Doumit compiled it on Sept. 30, 2009 in Wrigley Field against the Cubs.
Stephen Pianovich is an associate reporter for MLB.com. 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.