CINCINNATI - After making two moves to upgrade an already solid bullpen, the Pittsburgh Pirates added depth to their rotation and infield on Friday by acquiring pitcher J.A. Happ from Seattle and first baseman Michael Morse from the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Pittsburgh sent minor league pitcher Adrian Sampson to the Mariners while shipping enigmatic outfielder Jose Tabata to Los Angeles as the Pirates eye a third straight playoff berth.
The start of the stretch run will begin without struggling starter A.J. Burnett. Pittsburgh put the All-Star on the 15-day disabled list Friday with inflammation in his pitching elbow.
The Pirates were 5 1-2 games behind St. Louis in the NL Central, but first in line for a wild-card berth and looking to close ground on the Cardinals by upgrading their pitching staff. They worked on their bullpen first, obtaining Joe Blanton from Kansas City for versatility and Joakim Soria from Detroit as another setup reliever on Thursday.
Shortly before the non-waiver trading deadline on Friday, they got the 32-year-old Happ, who went 4-6 with a 4.64 ERA in 20 starts and one relief appearance for Seattle this season. They then made the move with Burnett, who had his third straight subpar performance during a 15-5 loss to the Cincinnati Reds.
Morse, who is expected to join the Pirates on Monday, was part of a massive three-team, 13-player deal on Thursday that ended with the 33-year-old traded from Miami to the Dodgers, who then designated him for assignment. Morse, who won a World Series ring with the San Francisco Giants last fall, hit .213 with four homers and 12 RBI for the Marlins this season. Pittsburgh is in need of depth along the infield following injuries to third baseman Josh Harrison and shortstop Jordy Mercer.
Tabata, who Los Angeles assigned to Triple-A Oklahoma City, never lived up to expectations after signing a $21-million contract in 2011. He spent most of the last two seasons bouncing back and forth between Pittsburgh and Triple-A Indianapolis, his most notable contribution this season breaking up Max Scherzer's perfect game when the Washington ace dinged Tabata in the left elbow with two outs in the ninth inning on June 20.
Burnett made the All-Star team for the first time in his 17-year career this summer but has struggled over the last two weeks. The 38-year-old gave up 10 hits, two walks and eight runs -- seven earned -- in 4 1-3 innings in the series opener. The Reds also stole four bases off Burnett, whose velocity was down at the start of the game.
Left-hander Bobby LaFromboise was called up from Triple-A Indianapolis to take his roster spot. LaFromboise made his one appearance with the Pirates this season, pitching a scoreless inning on May 14 at Philadelphia.
To open a spot for Soria, the Pirates designated reliever Deolis Guerra for assignment. Guerra gave up a pair of three-run homers by Brandon Phillips on Thursday night.
Soria arrived in town shortly before the 4 p.m. Hurdle plans to use him in a set-up role for closer Mark Melancon, who has converted a club-record 30 consecutive save chances and is 32 of 33 overall this season.
"If that's the case, the eighth (inning) is very similar," Soria said.
When he walked into the clubhouse, reliever Jared Hughes was first to notice him and say hello. Soria doesn't have any close friends on the Pirates.
"It's kind of like spring training," he said. "You recognize faces. I know some of them. It's normal for us to have these types of situations."