PITTSBURGH — It has been a month since the Pittsburgh Pirates lost a series. That one was when they were swept at the Cleveland Indians back on June 19th. Some fans feared the surprising successful season might start to come to an end at the hands of inter-league play once again. But, the team showed the same resiliency then as they had shown all season by rebounding to take consecutive series at home against AL clubs, the Orioles and then the Red Sox.
It was then that the Pirates lost Jose Tabata to injury and opened the door for Alex Presley. I am sure the organization wishes now that they had called up Presley for the Cleveland series as they had considered going into it. Since his arrival, Presley is setting the table perfectly from the leadoff spot with an OBA of .405 and scoring 12 runs in 17 games. It will be interesting to see what the Pirates decide to do when Tabata is ready to be inserted back into the lineup. Same goes for Ronny Cedeno as he is probably closer to a return than Tabata. Steve Pearce, who could have possibly locked down the job at 1B if he had not been injured, will add another body to the log jam. Clint Hurdle correctly stated recently that rosters have a tendency to take care of themselves. Fans, however, always enjoy anticipating what may be down the road.
My guess is in the short term, seldom used Pedro Ciriaco will be released to make room for whoever is first to return. Eric Fryer will be on the team until Ryan Doumit returns, but Michael McKenry will retain his job based on his game calling although his bat has been respectable. After that is when it gets difficult. The Pirates simply do not have the luxury to carry all these outfielders when they have Garrett Jones and Pearce who can play both 1B and RF with Pearce also being able to adequately play 3B. He did play SS briefly in his AAA rehab stint, but that is not to be read into at all. Xavier Paul provides a good defensive substitution, but that won’t be necessary with Tabata back in the outfield, but he will provide good insurance for all three OF positions and the capacity to pinch run. Matt Diaz has provided leadership (from what I have read from other sources) and he had quite the professional at bat last night against the Reds fisting a sacrifice fly to RF to score the Pirates’ 2nd run of the game.
Some would suggest Lyle Overbay be released, but the guy is hitting .341 since July 3rd. Brandon Wood can play 3B and both middle infield positions, same as Chase d’Arnaud. Josh Harrison can play 2B and 3B and has done nothing to lose his roster spot, but d’Arnaud has a swagger that a championship calibre team needs. Wood has provided a little of the much needed pop on this team. It is not the number of HRs he has hit, but a couple of the five he has hit have been bombs. Pedro Alvarez may have to earn his way back onto this team this year or have an injury to someone else open a door for him.
I’m guessing when it is all said and done, come late August, we will see a lineup such as this:
- RF Alex Presley
- LF Jose Tabata
- 2B Neil Walker
- CF Andrew McCutchen
- 3B Pedro Alvarez
- 1B Lyle Overbay
- SS Ronny Cedeno
- CA Michael McKenry