ATLANTA -- Some of the best managers in recent baseball history have been renowned for riding hot relief arms into exhaustion. Clint Hurdle, who has started the 2012 season with a bullpen full of hot arms, is committed to not falling into that trap.
The Pirates manager's No. 1 commandment, which he doesn't mind sharing even though it might give a slight tactical advantage to the opposition on certain days: Thou shalt not pitch three consecutive days. That workload, and even more, isn't rare for relievers.
"Unless you're talking about two outings of 15 pitches, no, I don't plan on using anyone three straight," Hurdle said. "Based on the history in third outings last year, the ERA, the command and the control wasn't beneficial. Sometimes, you have to re-think things. You pitch three days in a row, you're away that third day."
Much of Hurdle's conclusion is based on his and pitching coach Ray Searage's observations, because the stark numbers do not mount a compelling argument against three-peats.
The Bucs' five busiest relievers last season -- Joel Hanrahan, Chris Resop, Jose Veras, Daniel McCutchen and Tony Watson -- pitched on a third straight day a total of 18 times, compiling an ERA of 3.78 in those 16 2/3 innings.
But Hanrahan, for instance, had a 4.91 ERA in a small sample size of five third-day outings, compared to his overall ERA of 1.83.
The Pirates' most efficient third-game reliever in 2011 was the versatile right-hander not on the current staff: McCutchen allowed one run in four appearances, three of them two-inning stints.
The Bucs entered Monday night's game in Atlanta with the National League's fourth-best bullpen ERA (3.00) and fifth-lowest opponents; batting average (.223).
Prospect Wilson honored for role in no-no
ATLANTA -- Indianapolis left-hander Justin Wilson, the No. 10 prospect in the Pirates' system, was named International League Pitcher of the Week on Monday -- not surprising, considering he had pitched most of a no-hitter on Sunday.
Wilson was a mid-March cut from Spring Training with specific developmental instructions he apparently is following. When he was optioned, general manager Neal Huntington said Wilson needed to "refine his mechanics and become more consistent."
He was consistent enough on Sunday to hold Durham hitless for 7 1/3 innings. Jose (Jumbo) Diaz and Major League veteran lefty Doug Slaten finished up the Indians' first no-hitter since Ian Snell's on May 15, 2005, over Norfolk.
"He's still trying to establish himself, work on consistency and in-game adjustments," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, who had called Indianapolis pitching coach Tom Filer earlier in the day to offer his congratulations.
Wilson was pulled after 107 pitches because he had pitched into the eighth inning for only the second time in 78 Minor League starts. However, with Huntington always on the lookout for a matchup lefty, he may at first reach the Pirates as a reliever.
"Love the velocity, the arm strength and the power," Huntington said of the 6-foot-2, 220-pound lefty who was the club's fifth-round choice in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft.
Wilson is not the Bucs' only pitching prospect reigning as pitcher of the week in his league. Jameson Taillon, the Pirates' top prospect and No. 8 overall prospect according to MLB.com, got the honors in the Florida State League after running his current scoreless streak to 11 innings with five shutout frames in Sunday's start.
Meek sent to Triple-A to get work
ATLANTA -- Following Monday night's 9-3 victory over the Braves in Atlanta, the Pirates optioned reliever Evan Meek to Triple-A Indianapolis.
Meek, the 28-year-old right-hander seeking to return to his 2010 form following a 2011 season marred by injury, has been erratic in his nine appearances this season. With the move, the Bucs hope regular work will get him back on track quicker.
"We feel he is close," manager Clint Hurdle said following the game. "To get him reps right now [at the Major League level], there are not many leveraged situations available. We do feel this is the best opportunity to get him to finish this process he's been on, to get him to the finish line quicker.
"The biggest part for me is going down and finish his fastball, getting it down in the strike zone. Velocity is not an issue for me. Then he can add the slider to it, and complete the picture."
In those nine outings, Meek has allowed 12 hits and six runs in 9 2/3 innings. He showed his inconsistency in this four-game series. On Friday, he surrendered back-to-back two-run hits. Meek came back on Sunday to throw a shutout inning.
On Tuesday, the Pirates recalled right-hander Jared Hughes from Triple-A Indianapolis.
• Andrew McCutchen played in his 23rd consecutive game on Monday, the longest playing streak among the Pirates, which is significant only because Monday was also the 73rd anniversary of Lou Gehrig's 2,130th consecutive and final Major League game. The Iron Horse removed himself from the Yankees' lineup after an 0-for-4 against the Washington Senators dropped his season average to .143. Two years later, the gentleman legend died from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
• Pirates' "buried" treasure? On the day Justin Wilson and Jameson Taillon were named pitchers of the week in the International and Florida State leagues, Garret Cole fashioned a fabulous line of his own for Bradenton, allowing one hit in six shutout innings Monday night against Jupiter, with one walk and six strikeouts.
In his hot-or-cold April, Pedro Alvarez either struck out (23) or banged an extra base hit (five homers, four doubles) in more than half of his 59 at-bats.
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.