The Pirates have three injured players -- pitchers Dave Williams and Mark Redman and outfielder Jody Gerut -- eyeing returns this season.
But the team seems to be leaning toward keeping them out of the remaining 14 games.
Williams has not pitched since Sept. 3 because of a strained rib muscle. He has thrown soft tosses from 60 feet the past two days, but there's no timetable when he'll pitch from a mound.
Redman's left index finger was slightly fractured Monday. A hand specialist informed the Pirates that Redman could pitch without risk but added pain could hinder his performance.
Gerut has been out since Aug. 10 because of irritation in his surgically repaired right knee. He has participated in all batting and fielding practices the past two days.
All three have told management they wish to return.
"Even if it's one start, I'm hoping to get back out there," Williams said.
"We get paid pretty well as major-leaguers," Gerut said. "I don't think it would be morally correct to not want to play just because there is a week left."
General manager Dave Littlefield said the Pirates have not ruled out any of them from returning and stressed each player's case will be weighed individually in meetings this week with medical staff. But he acknowledged circumstances are working against them.
"Obviously, we've got limited time, and it takes timing to be major-league ready," Littlefield said. "You don't go from zero to 100."
He added that, because minor-league baseball is complete, not having rehabilitation assignments hurts, too.
Interim manager Pete Mackanin said the Pirates would prefer to use the remaining schedule to look at newcomers because, especially with Williams and Redman, they are aware of what they can do.
"I don't see the point," he said of the injured players returning.
North Side notches
Cincinnati first baseman Sean Casey, taken Friday to Allegheny General Hospital after being struck in the face in a collision with the Pirates' Humberto Cota, rejoined his teammates yesterday and said he hopes to play Tuesday. Casey, an Upper St. Clair native, has a mild concussion, but he had no breaks, not even any bruising. He described his neck as "sore."
The Pirates revealed they will use a five-man rotation the rest of the season: Kip Wells, Zach Duke, Paul Maholm, Oliver Perez and Ian Snell.
There will be one exception: Tom Gorzelanny, who starred for Class AA Altoona this summer, will make his major-league debut Tuesday against the Houston Astros. It is being considered a spot start, the need resulting from the doubleheader Friday.
Management considered Bryan Bullington, the No. 1 draft pick in 2002, for Tuesday but chose Gorzelanny because, as Mackanin put it, "We want to get a look at him." Bullington will be assigned to bullpen duty the rest of the way. Although neither Bullington nor Gorzelanny pitched relief in the minors, Mackanin said the team thought Bullington would be "better suited" for the role.