In 2013, the Pirates were pleasantly surprised by a number of pitchers. Francisco Liriano returned to All-Star form, Jeanmar Gomez turned in a number of quality spot starts and Gerrit Cole looked like a budding star. But Pittsburgh hasn't had such luck this season, with Liriano and Cole battling injury.
One surprise so far, though that covers just two starts, is right-hander Vance Worley, who will go against the Mets and Daisuke Matsuzaka on Thursday in the opener of a four-game series.
After making seven starts with Triple-A Indianapolis to start the season, Worley has allowed just three runs on 10 hits while fanning nine in two outings this month for the Pirates..
"The fact that he was able to clean up some things -- revisit, I think, the delivery, the mindset from when he was having success. To feel that again, and then just start over," manager Clint Hurdle said. "Start with a new organization, clean chalkboard. I've seen him pitch very, very well. I saw him a couple of Spring Trainings ago, it was lights-out. I saw him last spring and it wasn't. So am I surprised? No."
Matsuzaka has also given the Mets more than expected this season. The once-heralded right-hander appeared in 14 games in relief before starting the second contest of a doubleheader on May 25. Matsuzaka is in the rotation, for now, though each start is an important one for him given Dillon Gee's impending return.
On the season, Matsuzaka sports a 2.68 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. He allowed just one run in 5 1/3 innings in his most recent start on Friday, but the Marlins prevailed, 3-2.
"I knew that was the only run I could give up," Matsuzaka said of a first-inning RBI groundout. "So I had that in mind the rest of my outing."
Pirates: Cole will rejoin rotation Saturday
Hurdle announced Wednesday that Cole will be activated from the disabled list to start Saturday against the Mets. The hard-throwing righty has been out since June 8 with shoulder fatigue. The rest of the rotation moving forward hasn't been set.
"I'll give you this: Cole's starting Saturday," Hurdle said. "We're in discussions now about what that'll do to the rotation. We'll have those discussions starting tomorrow, and we'll get you updated on what we have. There's a lot of possibilities."
Cole, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, has a 6-3 record and a 3.64 ERA in 12 starts this season.
Mets: Lagares returning from DL, Flores optioned
When the Mets take the field in Pittsburgh on Thursday, their regular center fielder will be with them. Juan Lagares is coming off the disabled list -- where he has been since June 2 with a strained right intercostal -- and the Mets optioned shortstop Wilmer Flores to Triple-A Las Vegas.
Lagares went 2-for-8 in two rehab games with Double-A Binghamton this week before the Binghamton Mets' contest Wednesday was rained out. Collins stressed Wednesday afternoon the importance of accumulating at-bats -- as opposed to the results of those at-bats -- but the inclement weather wasn't significant enough to delay Lagares' return. He went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts Tuesday.
"He's done OK. [Tuesday] night was not a real good night for him, but it's about getting at-bats and accumulating those at-bats and seeing pitches," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "But we know one thing, he is as good a guy who patrols center field as there is in this league. So when he gets back here, we know we're stronger defensively for sure."
Lagares' return will take away playing time from other outfielders. With Lagares in center and Curtis Granderson in right, Collins will have to find at-bats for Chris Young, Eric Young Jr., Bobby Abreu and Kirk Nieuwenhuis.
• After Collins lauded his starting pitching and acknowledged he needed to find innings for some relievers before facing the A's on Wednesday, the Mets bullpen isn't in as good of shape entering the club's series with the Pirates. Zack Wheeler lasted just two innings against the A's, so Dana Eveland, Gonzalez Germen, Josh Edgin and Jeurys Familia combined for the last seven. The relievers allowed a combined two runs.
• Starling Marte left Tuesday's game against the Rays with concussion-like symptoms after sliding into Tampa Bay second baseman Sean Rodriguez's knee. The Pirates outfielder didn't start Wednesday, but passed all concussion tests, said Hurdle.
"The reports back from the hotel were all of a positive fashion," Hurdle said. "There was nothing negative leading us more toward a concussive state. He showed up back, slept well, feels much better today than he did yesterday."
Steven Petrella is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.