About 2 1/2 hours before the Pirates played the final game of their 10-game homestand that ended Thursday, utility player Brandon Inge entered the clubhouse at PNC Park in full hockey gear, including a Mario Lemieux throwback Pittsburgh Penguins' jersey and rollerblades. It was quite the scene.
"Stuff like that is great," Pirates second baseman Neil Walker said. "It's such a long season and you need a good laugh or two just to keep things loose and break things up. That's why it is good to have guys like Brandon Inge around."
The Pirates signed the 36-year-old Inge as a free agent in February after he spent last season with Detroit and Oakland, hitting a combined .218 with 12 home runs in 83 games. They were looking at as much what he could offer in the clubhouse as on the field.
"I know that's part of the reason they were calling me over to this ballclub," he said. "I've been on a lot of teams, a lot of postseason teams, and they wanted to know what makes things tick."
While with Detroit, Inge played in the 2006 World Series and 2011 American League Championship Series. He was part of Oakland's AL West championship team last season, though he missed the postseason after undergoing knee surgery. Inge says team harmony was an important aspect of all three of those clubs.
"You're around these guys more than you are your family a lot of time," Inge said. "So if you're going to be butting heads all the time, it's not going to work. I try to keep things loose, make guys smile. I'm at the stage of my career where that's part of my job and I enjoy it. I don't know how many more years I have left and I want it to be fun."
Inge still has something left in his bat, too, as he is hitting .263 in 23 games. He also has the versatility to play every position on the field but pitcher and center field, making him a valuable bench player for the Pirates in his first National League season.
NEXT: Pirates (Jeff Locke, 4-1, 2.73 ERA) at Brewers (Mike Fiers, 1-2, 5.93 ERA)
2B Neil Walker finished with two hits Friday, snapping an 0-for-8 slump. In his last nine games in Milwaukee, Walker is hitting .405 (15-37) with six doubles and a home run. He has seven multi-hit games this season.
LHP Jeff Locke makes his 10th start of the season Saturday when the Pirates face the Brewers at Miller Park. Locke won four in a row and scattered three hits over seven innings as Pittsburgh beat Houston, 1-0, in his last outing. For the season, Locke is 4-1 with a 2.73 ERA.
CF Andrew McCutchen went 1-for-4 Friday and is now hitting .369 (31-for-84) since going 4-for-5 in Milwaukee on April 30. McCutchen has hit safely in 11 of his last 12 games at Miller Park and is hitting .420 there during that stretch.
RHP A.J. Burnett struck out six Friday, and now leads the National League with 85 on the season. Burnett has taken the loss in his last three starts and hasn't won since May 3 at Washington.
LF Starling Marte tripled in the sixth inning and has hit safely in eight of his last 10 games. Marte is batting .263 during that stretch with two doubles, a triple and six runs scored.
"Someday, we'll score for A.J. We've just got to be better."—2B Neil Walker on lack of run support for RHP A.J. Burnett.
RHP Charlie Morton (Tommy John surgery in June 2012) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 22. He left his rehab start May 3 with Triple-A Indianapolis after three innings because of shoulder inflammation. He made a rehab start for Double-A Altoona on May 16. He made his second rehab start with Double-A Altoona on May 21. He will make two more rehab starts, both with Triple-A Indianapolis, on May 26 and May 31, before being re-evaluated.
RHP James McDonald (sore right shoulder) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to May 1. He threw off a mound May 21 for the first time since being injured. He will begin an injury rehabilitation assignment May 27 with Double-A Altoona.
INF John McDonald (strained lower back) went on the 15-day disabled list May 15. He hopes to begin a rehab assignment before the end of May.
RHP Jeff Karstens (right shoulder inflammation) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 22. He began a rehab assignment with Class A Bradenton on May 13, then pitched May 18 for Double-A Altoona. The tentative plan is for Karstens to make five minor league starts, then be re-evaluated.
INF Chase d'Arnaud (left thumb surgery in March 2013) had a torn ligament repaired and was placed on the disabled list on March 20. He began a rehab assignment with high Class A Bradenton on May 16, then moved his rehab to Double-A Altoona on May 19.
RHP A.J. Burnett
LHP Wandy Rodriguez
RHP Jeanmar Gomez
LHP Jeff Locke
LHP Francisco Liriano
RHP Jason Grilli (closer)
RHP Mark Melancon
LHP Tony Watson
RHP Jose Contreras
LHP Justin Wilson
RHP Vin Mazzaro
RHP Bryan Morris
1B Garrett Jones
2B Neil Walker
SS Clint Barmes
3B Pedro Alvarez
INF Brandon Inge
INF Gaby Sanchez
INF Jordy Mercer
LF Starling Marte
CF Andrew McCutchen
RF Travis Snider
OF Jose Tabata