ST. LOUIS -- Clint Hurdle's return to Texas, where as the Rangers' batting coach in 2010 he spent "a very good year, personally and professionally," will be nice. Getting to return with a contending club will make it even nicer.
"We are basically where they were in '10," said the manager of the Pirates, heading to Arlington for a Monday-Wednesday series with the Rangers. "That's when they got over the hump, and they've built on it ever since."
Those 2010 Rangers made the franchise's first World Series appearance -- losing to the Giants in five games -- and the club now is competing for its fourth consecutive postseason berth. The Rangers entered Sunday 1 1/2 games behind Oakland in the American League West.
"They're pretty much in the same situation as we are. I have a lot of respect for what they've done, but we also respect what we've done," said Hurdle, who still won't allow himself to show up back in Rangers Ballpark with any personal swagger. "I'm not going to walk in there like, 'Look at what we've done.' That's not the way I work. I'm a small part of what's going on.
"Now, going back with a good ballclub? Yes. When your hard work starts producing tangible results? Yes, that's meaningful.
"I'm absolutely looking forward to it," Hurdle added. "I made a lot of friends. The makeup of the club has changed quite a bit -- but there are still some stalwarts there … [David] Murphy, [Ian] Kinsler, [Elvis] Andrus. [Derek] Holland, [Matt] Harrison on the pitching side. And basically the entire coaching staff."
Morton exits start in second inning due to foot injury
ST. LOUIS -- Pirates starter Charlie Morton abruptly left Sunday's game, and soon thereafter left town for an examination of the left-foot discomfort that forced him out of Pittsburgh's 9-2 loss in the second inning.
Morton departed the game with undisclosed discomfort in the foot triggered, he later passed word through a club spokesman, when he went to cover home plate on his last, wild pitch of the game. The pitcher immediately left for Pittsburgh to be examined by team doctors.
Morton obviously would not have pitched anyway at the Pirates' next stop, a three-game Interleague Series in Arlington against the Texas Rangers. So he will simply hook back up with the team when it returns to Pittsburgh on Thursday.
Morton had just uncorked a wild pitch to allow a run to score and give St. Louis a 5-0 lead when he was paid a visit by pitching coach Ray Searage.
Soon after engaging Morton, Searage signaled to the dugout for the trainer to come out. Soon after that, Morton walked off the mound.
Stolmy Pimentel took over and ended the inning with a strikeout of Yadier Molina.
Morton was making his 16th start since resuming his career after recovering from Tommy John surgery. He was working on a career-long four-game winning streak and had been 6-1 with a team-low 2.90 ERA since the All-Star break.
Morton went 1 2/3 innings on Sunday, charged with six hits and five runs while walking two without a strikeout.
First number, last word
12-5: Pirates' record in Interleague games, best among National League teams, entering the series in Texas, the final regular-season series against American League competition.
"If you're going to ride that roller coaster, put your seatbelt on. These were my expectations, to be in a dogfight, and we're legitimately in a dogfight." -- Hurdle, to friends who are getting rattled as the Pirates careen down the stretch.
• Hurdle has penciled in Garrett Jones for designated-hitter duty in Texas, at least for Monday's series opener against Rangers right-hander Yu Darvish. Jones is 3-for-17 in that role this season, 21-for-84 with one home run lifetime.
• With Class A West Virginia's elimination on Saturday from the South Atlantic League playoffs spoiling Wandy Rodriguez's chances for another rehab start, the club weighs the likelihood of activating him. The lefty was due to throw a side session on Sunday to "see if he can pull that off," Hurdle said. Rodriguez felt a little soreness the day after his Friday night three-inning start in Indianapolis, and the hope is that was just routine off his first competitive outing in a while.
• Hurdle feels confident about using Starling Marte on defense as well as to pinch-run, but bat work remains on the shelf.
"The last piece is swinging the bat," Hurdle said of Marte's lingering discomfort in his bruised right hand. "The force of the swing, letting it rip, is still not there."
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.