PIT@STL: Hughes escapes bases-loaded jam unscathed

PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates activated reliever Jared Hughes from the disabled list before Friday's game against the Rockies and optioned reliever Vic Black to Triple-A Indianapolis.

Hughes was placed on the 15-day disabled list on June 8 with right shoulder inflammation. The 6-foot-7 righty made seven rehab appearances since mid-July, allowing nine hits and no runs over eight innings. Hughes said his shoulder feels great, and added his sinker and two-seam fastball were playing well. Evaluators in the organization agreed.

"Every one of the reports came back that his ball had really good late life, really good action," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "That was one of our concerns here that we weren't seeing as much consistency with it as we had in the past."

Hughes has a 4.96 ERA and 1.59 WHIP in 15 appearances with the Pirates this season after appearing in 66 games in 2012. He will rejoin one of baseball's best bullpens -- tops in the league in WHIP and opponent's batting average, and third in ERA.

"I don't mind being thrown into the fire," Hughes said. "That's what I live for."

Black made his Major League debut on July 25 and made two more appearances for the Pirates, including one in Thursday's 13-0 loss to the Cardinals. He surrendered two runs and four hits over four innings with Pittsburgh, which recalled him on July 23 when closer Jason Grilli landed on the DL with a flexor strain in his right arm.

Black threw 41 pitches over 2 2/3 innings Thursday and has to take two days off, which went into the decision to option him, Hurdle said.

"There are always positives for these men to take," Hurdle said. "So to knock down a lot of firsts -- first game, first pitch, maybe his first time warming up and not getting in the game. All that being said, the familiarity with the travel, he has his mind wrapped around it."

The 25-year-old Black has a 2.31 ERA and .161 batting average against over 29 appearances with Indianapolis this season, serving as the closer. He has 15 saves in 17 chances.

"He doesn't need to go down and absolutely recook or redo anything," Hurdle said. "He just needs to go down and be aggressive with that fastball and throw that breaking ball whenever he wants to, because he can. That breaking ball can be a separator. He has a chance to be a guy that can wipe out an inning at the back end of a game."

Top prospect Taillon earns promotion to Triple-A

Top Prospects: Jameson Taillon, RHP, Pirates

PITTSBURGH -- Righty Jameson Taillon, the Pirates' top prospect, has been promoted to Triple-A Indianapolis and is expected to be activated Monday. Because of the move, he could see some Major League time as early as 2014.

The second-overall pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft posted a 3.67 ERA, 1.34 WHIP and 2.94 K/BB ratio in 20 appearances (19 starts) with Double-A Altoona this season. He ranks 12th on MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects list.

Taillon allowed 10 runs and 13 hits over 3 1/3 innings on July 13, but the 6-foot-6 righty has otherwise been consistent. He allowed four runs on nine hits and two walks over his past two outings, striking out 13 in 12 innings.

Gerrit Cole, the first overall pick in 2011 and Pittsburgh's top prospect entering this season, was sent to Indianapolis from Altoona in August 2012 and made his Major League debut less than a year later on June 11, 2013.

Pirates eye catching depth behind young Sanchez

STL@PIT: Tony Sanchez collects his first career RBI

PITTSBURGH -- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle is confident in what 25-year-old Tony Sanchez can do behind the plate and with the bat, but that doesn't mean the club won't search for some insurance.

Catcher Michael McKenry will miss the rest of the season after undergoing surgery on his torn lateral meniscus Tuesday, and Sanchez, the club's first-round pick in 2009, will likely back up starter Russell Martin for the rest of '13.

General manager Neal Huntington said Wednesday he's searching for Minor League catchers with some big league experience as potential insurance, but is comfortable with Sanchez. He and Hurdle will deliberate more, and the manager will give Huntington some names moving forward.

Martin is under contract through the end of 2014, so Sanchez likely won't have the chance to be an everyday catcher until '15 at the earliest. Hurdle said it's not out of the question that he'll try Sanchez at different positions in the coming months and next season, but wants him to first refine his catching skills.

"Right now, it could be a conversation that could be visited, but we want him to hone his first craft and take care of that," Hurdle said.

Sanchez started twice behind the plate against the Cardinals this week and is 3-for-14 in four games this season.

Worth noting

• Wandy Rodriguez threw long toss again Friday. Hurdle said the lefty gave him a big thumbs up as he walked by his office. Rodriguez has been on the disabled list with a left forearm strain since June 11.

• The Pirates didn't allow a home run in their five-game set against the Cardinals and haven't given up a long ball at home in seven straight games. They have surrendered just four in their last 25 home games.

First number

3 -- The Pirates have played only three games without recording an extra-base hit this season. They've had two separate streaks of 48 games with an extra-base hit and carried one into Friday night's game against Colorado.

Last word

"He's a backyard player. I'm not going to take away his strengths. He's a backyard player. That's what we love about him."
-- Hurdle on Martin and not limiting the catcher, whom Hurdle says plays with an "edge"