The Pittsburgh Pirates bench is clearly one of the more interesting facets of the 2015 version of the team.
A wake-up call was sounding this spring training when Pirates centerfielder Andrew McCutchen sat out for over two-weeks with lower body soreness.
Side note: Is MLB taking a page out of the NHL’s playbook with injury descriptions?
Did the players hear the call? If so, who among the reserves can be relied on at any position at any time, for any length of time?
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This off season saw a substantial amount of turnover with the bench players and a couple starters (big time catcher). The Pirates have lost Russell Martin, Travis Snider, Gaby Sanchez, Clint Barmes and others and have filled the roles with some interesting moves including bringing in Asian star Jung Ho Kang who is projected to be a back up at every infield position (except catcher), oft injured veteran Corey Hart, journeyman Sean Rodriguez as well as trying to keep Pirates minor league stalwart Andrew Lambo in the majors and getting good at bats and newcomer backup shortstop Pedro Florimon.
With all this being said can this bench be counted on for more than an occasional fifth day start yes for some and no for others. Once Jang gets comfortable with all things America, not just baseball, he will be a valuable member of the team, especially when starting shortstop Jordy Mercer goes through his annual hitting slump. If Corey Hart can remain relatively healthy, he can ease the pains involving the Pedro Alvarez first base experiment (more on that in another column) and help give Alvarez advice and needed rest if a funk occurs whether it be in the field or at bat. A player like Sean Rodriguez is always a valuable asset to a bench and ballclub in general, being able to provide a consistent presence in the locker room and on the field.
Andrew Lambo is still a work in progress and may also benefit from consistent play
Starting fight fielder Gregory Polanco needs to build on his early success last year but what happens if he can’t and collapses and can’t provide the steady power and constancy that is needed to be a future star. The team already has Hart and Lambo penciled in as his backups but when will the Pirates decide that big salaried minor leaguer Jose Tabata needs to play in the big leagues.
Andrew Lambo is still a work in progress and may also benefit from consistent play (i.e. the minor leagues) but at some point he has to be given a chance to prove his worth in the big leagues before it becomes now or never. He ‘s not only a needed a valued left handed bat of the bench but also could provide the needed pinch hit homerun to tie or win a game.
Assuredly as the season progresses and players get hurt or struggle, the bench will have its chance to shine or be replaced. The Pirates are now at a place where they are now seeking to improve their squad whether it is at the trade deadline or before to improve and do what it takes to be better than just a wild card team.