Top Prospects: Jameson Taillon, RHP, Pirates

PITTSBURGH -- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle began talking confidently about his team's pitching depth back in February, when he could scan the practice fields of Pirate City and see a full complement of starting pitchers with others (Gerrit Cole, Francisco Liriano and Charlie Morton most prominent among them) on the waiting list.

Hurdle sounded like an Army recruiter when he termed his rotation "Eleven Strong."

So, guess what? Brandon Cumpton on Saturday became the 11th different starter used by the Bucs in the season's first 68 games.

"Little did we know that we'd have to pull in all 11 in the first half," Hurdle said.

Last season, the Pirates needed only 10 different starters. Not sure whether that statistic is the better indication of the current depth -- or the fact the 2013 eleven includes only five who were also in the '12 mix (A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez, Jeff Locke, James McDonald, Morton)?

"It's tangible evidence of what Neal [general manager Neal Huntington] and staff had been able to do before," said Hurdle. "A lot of hard work for three years went unnoticed because there was no tangible evidence of success at the Major League level."

Next? If needed, it could be Stolmy Pimentel. The 23-year-old Dominican righty, acquired as part of the Boston package for Joel Hanrahan, has just been promoted to Triple-A Indianapolis after 13 solid starts at Altoona (4-3, 3.61).

"He and [Jameson] Taillon [the 2010 No. 2 overall Draft pick, who is still in Double-A] are banging the drums," Hurdle said. "They're coming."

Cumpton earns second start Thursday at Reds

LAD@PIT: Cumpton fans five in big league debut

PITTSBURGH -- Right-hander Brandon Cumpton will remain in the Pirates' rotation and make his next start in the finale of a four-game series with the Reds in Cincinnati on Thursday.

That was a relatively easy call for manager Clint Hurdle and general manager Neal Huntington to make after Cumpton's impressive Major League debut on Saturday.

The 24-year-old righty blanked the Dodgers on two hits through four innings, protecting a 1-0 lead, until a few elevated pitches in the fifth and sixth erased his small margin for error. He allowed three runs overall in five-plus innings in the Pirates' eventual 5-3 loss in 11 innings.

"We wanted to give him more of a safety net than just one run," Hurdle said. "But he came out of the chute well. I thought his poise was really good. Looked like he'd been there before."

Significantly, the call on Cumpton will afford another rehab start for Jeanmar Gomez, who had been the prime alternative for the Reds set. Recovering from right forearm inflammation, Gomez went three innings and threw 64 pitches in his first rehab start with Triple-A Indianapolis.

"It didn't make a lot of sense to throw him in Cincinnati if that was the only thing underneath him," Hurdle said. "Jeanmar needs to go out and get another outing under his belt."

That will come on Tuesday, when Gomez will shoot for five innings and 75 pitches for Indianapolis.

First number/Last word

3.21: Collective ERA of Pirates pitchers when throwing to Russell Martin, second-lowest among Major League catchers, trailing only St. Louis' Yadier Molina (3.16).

• "You can only push this so far. No question we've got to get some of these guys healthy. But it's been fun to watch the young pitchers step in and do a job." -- Pirates general manager Neal Huntington, on injuries having the Bucs down to No. 11 on their depth chart with starting pitchers.

Worth noting

• Catcher Russell Martin was a late scratch from Sunday's lineup after he complained of lower body soreness following a light on-field workout. Martin had caught eight of the previous nine games.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle is comfortable with the playing load carried by Martin, who has appeared in 53 of the first 68 games, including some action in right field and at third base.

"Especially when you look at what he caught last year (128 games with the Yankees) in the AL East -- that's a more taxing game," Hurdle said.

• Brandon Cumpton became the first National League pitcher to start his career with four straight strikeouts since 1962, when the Dodgers' Pete Richert fanned the first six Reds batters he faced in his April 12 debut.

• Wandy Rodriguez (elbow inflammation) threw 15 fastballs problem-free in his Saturday bullpen session and will throw another bullpen Monday in Cincinnati.