ST. LOUIS -- The Pirates' series finale Sunday here against the Cardinals also ended an unusual, perhaps unprecedented, start to their 2014 schedule.
After 26 consecutive games against division foes, the Bucs said farewell to the National League Central. They are getting away from the NL altogether, in fact, for a five-game Interleague detour -- two in Baltimore prior to three at home against Toronto.
"I don't know if I've ever been involved in something like this before," manager Clint Hurdle said of the exclusive intradivision getaway. "We don't make up the schedule, just play it."
As an added quirk, the Pirates got their first looks at each NL Central foe, not having met any during preseason play. No surprises, merely confirmation of the division's reputation as one of MLB's toughest.
"The team here [the Cardinals] has been in 11 postseasons out of 15. The Reds, three out of five," Hurdle said. "We knew the Brewers would be tough because they're healthy, added a starter [Matt Garza], have [Ryan] Braun in the lineup and their bullpen came out throwing blanks. The Cubs rate building and growing, a team you can never overlook.
"So it's going to be a very good battle."
General manager Neal Huntington, on a conference call with reporters, acknowledged the high level of play that has given Milwaukee the early command of the division.
"But we can't worry about what other teams are doing," Huntington said. "We just have to focus on getting back to playing the way we are capable."
Martin back in high spirits after tests show good news
ST. LOUIS -- Russell Martin was back in the Pirates' clubhouse Sunday morning, feeling better both physically and emotionally.
On the body side, pain in the left hip area deriving from having favored a strained left hamstring had subsided. On the soul side, an MRI confirming the hamstring as the only issue came as relief.
"The MRI just showed a strain in the hammy," said Martin, who went on the disabled list Saturday and also went to Pittsburgh for the medical evaluation. "With the hip [discomfort], I was probably complicating things trying to take away some of the pain from the hammy. The only thing sore now is the hammy."
Martin received a platelet-rich plasma injection, and will rest for a few days before beginning a rehab routine laid out by head athletic trainer Todd Tomczyk.
The veteran said he has dealt with the hamstring discomfort since the onset of Spring Training.
"Even coming into Spring Training, I felt there was some tightness," Martin said. "I didn't know the severity, but I managed it pretty well through Spring Training. You don't play every day, and you don't play nine innings, so you can grind through it."
Martin sensed he was in serious trouble on April 19, when he tore down the first-base line for an infield single after lining a ball off Milwaukee pitcher Rob Wooten -- and three pitches later raced home on a double by Andrew McCutchen.
"I knew something was wrong, that I'd re-tweaked it pretty badly," said Martin, noting that since the mere act of checking swings had been excruciating. "I would really feel a jolt. With every checked swing, it would get worse and worse."
Pirates call up Sadler to add to bullpen depth
ST. LOUIS -- The Pirates on Sunday morning recalled Casey Sadler from Indianapolis to bolster a bullpen gassed after pooling seven innings Saturday behind ill starter Francisco Liriano.
Sadler, a 23-year-old right-hander, has started exclusively the last two seasons but has prior relief experience in the Minors. He went 3-0 for the Indians in four starts, with a 1.67 ERA.
He would be making his Major League debut and, as a 25th-round pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, becomes the longest shot on the Bucs' roster.
To make room for Sadler, Jared Hughes was optioned back to the Triple-A Indians after another critical outing.
In Saturday's 6-1 win, Hughes no-hit the Cardinals for 1 1/3 innings as the second of five relievers to work in support of Liriano. In his only other outing with the Bucs, Hughes blanked Cincinnati in the ninth inning on Monday and picked up that 6-5 victory.
Between the Pirates and the Indians, Hughes has yet to allow a run in eight outings this season covering nine innings.
First number, last word
23-9: Edinson Volquez's lifetime record against NL Central teams, entering his Sunday start against the Cardinals.
"I refuse to talk about the weather. Growing up, I felt older people always talked about the weather -- and that I'd become one if I did." -- Hurdle, when asked about Sunday's forecast of heavy rains in the St. Louis area.
• Lefty Wandy Rodriguez (right knee inflammation) threw his second bullpen (47 pitches) on Sunday and, barring setbacks, is on track for a rehab start Thursday, likely at Double-A Altoona.
• Liriano will take his normal side session on Tuesday and Huntington said the club is "cautiously optimistic" he will be able to make his next scheduled start. Liriano came out of Saturday's game with dizziness and flu-like symptoms.
• Catcher Reese McGuire, the Bucs' second pick (after outfielder Austin Medows) in the first round of last June's First-Year Player Draft, went on Class A West Virginia's 7-day disabled list after "taking a fastball to his midsection," according to Huntington.
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.