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Pirates Notebook: Adjusting to the Latest Injury to One of the Top Contributors

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PITTSBURGH — The Pirates have dealt with their share of adversity thus far in the young 2017 season.

They’ve lost Jung Ho Kang and Starling Marte to off-the-field issues. On the field, the injuries have continued to mount, with Antonio Bastardo, Francisco Cervelli, Adam Frazier, and David Freese all missing time.

The latest blow came on Saturday, when right-handed starter Jameson Taillon was suddenly placed on the disabled list with a groin strain. The nature of the loss — Taillon had been one of the team’s best pitchers with a 3.31 ERA — and the unexpected nature — he had finished his previous start seemingly without issue — made the news feel like even more of a gut-punch to the Pirates’ chances this season.

With the defense and offense slumping early in the season, Taillon, Ivan Nova and Gerrit Cole have been the Pirates’ big three in the rotation that have pushed the team forward. Now, that trio is a duo. There’s not many ways to overstate how big of a loss he will be if he’s out for any length of time.

But of course, the game of baseball isn’t going to feel sorry for them, so it will be up to manager Clint Hurdle and the Pirates to find a way to push forward.

“We’ve touched on it. We’ve had our challenges pushed our way,” he said. “We just turn them inside out. We just turn them into opportunities. Mindset is critical and it’s huge in his game. What you look for, what you dig for, you find. We’re hunting good. We’re hunting opportunity. We’re hunting growth. We’re hunting consistency and dependability.”

When it comes to finding the good in the bad, one doesn’t have to look very far from Taillon’s situation. With him on the shelf, Trevor Williams moved to the starting rotation and Josh Lindblom was selected from Triple-A Indianapolis.

Back in the major for the first time since 2014 after spending two years in Korea, Lindblom’s return to the majors isn’t just about overcoming on-the-field issues. His daughter, Monroe, was born with a heart condition that required surgery in October.

“I think certain times in our lives, where you couldn’t feel any farther from where you wanted to be,” Lindblom said. “I had a lot of those moments this offseason in the hospital with our daughter. You’ve really got two choices to make. You can live in the land of the unknown and not know what’s going to happen or you can wake up every day, no matter how hard it is, no matter what you’re going through, what you’re feeling and just push through that day and make it to the next day. So it’s a really, really neat feeling to be back here. It’s really cool.”

Hurdle expects Lindblom to be something other than just a good story, though.

“This was something we talked about since we acquired him,” he said. “This was his goal. It wasn’t just to go to Indy. It wasn’t a fell-good story, it wasn’t a part of a book, it was part of his dream to get back to the big leagues. There’s some other things — tangible things — that go along with it. He’s earned the opportunity. He went down there and poured into a young staff. He shared experience, shared some strengths and some ideas with guys out in the bullpen, as well. He’s got experience at the major-league level. This man has experience in life. He has a slow heartbeat. He’s got some pitches that work. This is a great opportunity for him to extend things and get a look at this level.”

CARRYOVER FOR GLASNOW?

Tyler Glasnow is coming off the best start of his season, when he went six innings and gave up three runs against Cincinnati. Hurdle said that Glasnow showed some encouraging signs in that performance beyond the box score.

“He punched out the side. He had some short sequences of innings pitched. For me, it was the most productive outing that he had,” Hurdle said. “He’s got to go out there and pitch. He needs to go pitch and that’s the part he’s embracing.”

All three runs against the Reds came in the first inning, which has been something of a bugaboo for Glasnow this season. He’s allowed 10 runs in the first inning over his first five starts for a 16.20 ERA. After that, he’s been much better, with that number falling to 5.79 in the second inning and 4.50 in the third.

“The first inning has been challenging,” Hurdle said. “That’s the next push through for him.”

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