Roster changes coming as Pirates host Cardinals

The Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals are in the midst of a weekend series that could have National League Central implications, but each team has some lineup drama happening, too.

Pittsburgh will have to make some decisions in the outfield. St. Louis is close to making some choices in its rotation.

For the Pirates, center fielder Starling Marte could come off the disabled list (right oblique strain) as soon as Saturday for the second contest of the three-game series at PNC Park. That leaves a question about the outfield.

Rookie Austin Meadows has filled in admirably with 13 hits, including three homers, in his first seven games. Left fielder Cory Dickerson (.319 batting average) has played well while Gregory Polanco (.213) has struggled.

Regardless of what the Pirates do, Marte will be welcomed back. He was hitting .309 with an .869 OPS and six home runs before he got hurt.

Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said Marte had full workouts two days in a row.

“We’ll see where he comes in, how he comes in (Saturday),” Hurdle said. ‘We anticipate right now that there’s going to be an opportunity that he could possibly be put back (Saturday) on the roster if there’s no setbacks.”

Pittsburgh made a move Friday, making room for starter Joe Musgrove — who came off the disabled list and made his Pirates and 2018 debut — by designating ineffective reliever George Kontos for assignment.

Musgrove pitched seven shutout innings in Pittsburgh’s 8-1 victory in the series opener.

The Pirates (28-22) had lost five of six. St. Louis (26-22) is 4-8 in its past 12.

St. Louis right-hander Jack Flaherty (1-1, 2.31 ERA) is scheduled to face Pittsburgh righty Trevor Williams (5-2, 3.05 ERA) Saturday. The pitching matchup is the same as a game April 28 at PNC Park, when Williams won 6-2, giving up two runs in six innings.

Williams is 2-2 with a 6.85 ERA in seven career appearances (four starts) versus the Cardinals.

Flaherty took the loss and allowed three runs and four hits in that matchup against Williams, but is more likely to remember his most recent outing.

Flaherty, 22, earned his first major league win with a 5-1 victory against Philadelphia on Sunday. He pitched 7 2/3 innings, struck out 13, lasted through 120 pitches, and retired the first 10 batters he faced and 12 of the final 13. The Phillies’ only run, and Flaherty’s only real mistake, was a solo homer by Rhys Hoskins in the fourth.

It wasn’t just a memorable day, though, as the Cardinals are hoping it’s a good sign for the future.

“What Jack pulled off was something we haven’t seen here in a long time,” St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. “It shows the potential we have, and it’s exciting to see. We needed it as a club, all the way around.

“I think Jack has the potential to have a very long career. And I say that not just on his stuff, but watch just how disciplined he is and how intentional he is in work, how he focuses on the game and how he does adapt. … It’s not normal to see a young pitcher have that maturity as a pitcher that he has.”

How Flaherty does Saturday could help shape the rotation, with Alex Reyes and Carlos Martinez expected to come off the disabled list soon. Reyes is on pace to return from Tommy John surgery before what would be Flaherty’s subsequent scheduled start.

“We’re looking forward to him being a part of what we’re doing,” Matheny said of Reyes. “It’s a tough road to come back from. But he’s made all the proper progressions. When Alex is ready, he’s going to be a part of it.”