PITTSBURGH -- Jeff Locke came to pitch at PNC Park on Monday night, he saw his old surroundings, and did he conquer some of the Pirates staff's concerns about him?
"It's the most comfortable I've felt all season. It felt ... so right, like this is where I belong," Locke said after having pitched the first 5 1/3 innings, mostly dominantly, of what became an 11-10 loss in 13 innings to the Giants.
Manager Clint Hurdle had urged Locke to not make too much of the start, to not have it frame the big picture of his future with the club.
"I didn't have a whole lot of time to think about it anyway. I came in to pitch today, and go back out of town [Tuesday]," said Locke, who indeed was optioned back to Triple-A Indianapolis on Tuesday by the Bucs, who needed his roster spot for reliever Phil Irwin. "My only plan was to come in and help these guys out a little bit."
Yet, he also wanted to show Hurdle that he could adapt to the manager's preferred pitching approach -- a task that could have shortened his outing.
Locke drew some criticism last season, especially when things started to sour, for pitching around batters, lacking the confidence to go at them aggressively. In 2013, he led the National League with 84 walks.
Tuesday night, he struck out five without issuing a walk, and faced 23 batters on a total of only 65 pitches. Ultimately, however, throwing too many strikes may have cost him because the Giants started to catch up to him in the sixth, leading to his removal.
Locke did not have a single start without a walk last season, among the 30 he made.
Bucs option Locke, recall Irwin from Triple-A
PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates announced Tuesday that they have optioned left-hander Jeff Locke to Triple-A Indianapolis and recalled right-hander Phil Irwin from their top affiliate.
Irwin, 27, is a relative novice when it comes to relief work, but the Bucs needed help for a bullpen that had worked 27 innings the last five days.
"We needed a pitcher for [Tuesday night's] and [Wednesday afternoon's] games," said manager Clint Hurdle, citing the pair of games the Bucs would be playing against the Giants in a 20-hour window. "He fit the criteria of what we needed. It's an opportunity for him to give us some length. He's pitched well the last few times out after a rough start."
Irwin missed most of Spring Training with a tender elbow and allowed 17 runs in 8 2/3 innings in his first four outings for the Indians, including two starts. In his last three relief appearances, he allowed one run in 9 1/3 innings.
He made one appearance for the Pirates last year, a start in which he allowed four earned runs without escaping the fifth inning.
Locke, an All-Star last season, made one start for the Bucs in 2014, allowing eight hits and six earned runs over 5 1/3 innings Monday.
Locke made 30 starts for Pittsburgh last year, logging a 10-7 record with a 3.52 ERA. The 26-year-old has made four starts for Indianapolis this season, going 0-1 with a 5.68 ERA.
Gomez back for long haul
PITTSBURGH -- There were not many positives in the Pirates' 13-inning loss to the Giants on Monday night. The return of Jeanmar Gomez definitely was one.
Unlike Jeff Locke, Gomez hadn't really been anywhere else. Performance-wise, another story. The invaluably versatile reliever previously had only three brief scoreless, appearances this season out of nine -- and in one of those he'd allowed two inherited runners to score.
Taking over in the 10th on Monday, Gomez put up three clutch zeros. Most noticeably, he escaped a jam in the 11th after Angel Pagan had reached second base with none out.
"A quality effort," said manager Clint Hurdle, elated to again have a premier long man to count on. "He had a really good, crisp sinker, and mixed in his breaking ball. Mixed all his pitches well, kept them down. Really solid."
Cutch vying to be 'Game Changer'
PITTSBURGH -- With apologies to a one-time commercial figure who identified himself as not only the president but a client of his hair club, Andrew McCutchen wants to not only promote Major League Baseball's newest prize -- the T-Mobile Game Changer Award -- but win it.
"Being a part of it is definitely cool -- I guess I can have a chance at it. Hopefully, if I do make a good play, I'll move on," McCutchen said. "But a lot of that stuff is out of my control."
In control are fans, who will have the sole voice in who gets the 2014 Game Changer Award, through voting on mlb.com/t-mobile.
"The whole thing is giving fans the opportunity to vote. It's all about them," McCutchen said. "Whoever stays in the running for it, it'll be because the fans are voting for him."
McCutchen and the Nationals' Bryce Harper are the spokesmen for the awards program announced Tuesday. Both will be featured in a national television campaign -- but with Harper out until possibly the second half of the season following thumb surgery, McCutchen will be the only one of them actually able to vie on the field for the honor.
"Every time you take the field, you want to make that catch or get that hit that changes the course of the game and locks up the win," McCutchen said. "I think it's really cool that fans decide this MLB award, and I'm really excited to try to make that game-changing play that fans will want to vote for at the end of the day."
Voting will be sort of "single elimination." Two game-changing players will compete for fans' votes daily -- starting at 10 a.m. ET -- with the day's winner advancing to take on the next day's challenger.
First number, last word
.330: Andrew McCutchen's batting average the last calendar year -- since May 7, 2013 -- the best in the Major Leagues.
"Possibly. But I don't look for excuses. I don't. In this game, you continue to move on opportunities when they present themselves. You always prepare and get ready for them." -- Hurdle, on whether the Pirates' Major League-leading total of nine blown saves could be partly attributed to how infrequently the opportunities have come
• Travis Snider and Russell Martin both had hearings Tuesday via video conference on their appeals of the one-game suspension handed them by MLB for their roles in the on-field fracas with the Brewers. Decisions have not been announced.
• Remarkably, the Giants scored their 11-10 win in 13 innings Monday with 17 of their 20 hits being singles, only the third time since World War II that they've had 20-plus hits with three for extra bases.
Most remarkable? All three have been against the Pirates, the earlier instances on Aug. 4, 1946 (10-1 in the Polo Grounds) and July 25, 1961 (16-7 in Forbes Field).
• The 29 runs the Pirates allowed in the first four games of this homestand -- to Toronto and San Francisco -- were the most they had given up in four consecutive home games since Aug. 13-16, 2012, when the Dodgers totaled 31 in a four-game series.
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.