Pittsburgh Pirates RumBunter Rumor Mill: Tony Sanchez done with first base and other notes
By Tyler Waite
The Pittsburgh Pirates have had a middling season so far on the field, and there haven’t been too many crazy rumors (yet) to start the year. Last week, we analyzed the possibility of the Pirates adding a front-line starter to the rotation at the deadline, namely Cole Hamels. This week, the focus has been on the minor (thankfully) injuries to Jordy Mercer and Starling Marte, the issues with Mark Melancon at the back end of the bullpen, and potential future extensions for Gerrit Cole and Pedro Alvarez, among other notes.
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Chris Stewart back, Tony Sanchez down
Chris Stewart, who started the season on the 15-day disabled list, returned to the Pirates last Friday. In order to make room for him on the 25-man roster, someone had to be moved off of it. Tony Sanchez happened to be that player. He’s in the unfortunate spot of being behind two catchers without minor league options remaining.
In more Sanchez news, manager Clint Hurdle doesn’t seem to want to give Tony any more time at first base for the time being. Last season, he began taking reps at first in order to increase his versatility and his ability to play at the major league level. With Sanchez focusing heavily on improving behind the plate over the offseason, and with his better play behind the plate during the spring and to start the year, it makes sense to keep him at catcher for now.
Jaff Decker back with Indy
Jaff Decker, who made the case for the last bench spot coming out of spring training an intriguing battle up until he got injured, was activated from the 15-day disabled list this week. He was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis, but expect him to see major league time this season, as injuries always happen and Andrew Lambo could continue to struggle (he only has one hit in 15 at-bats this year).
Jung Ho Kang is staying in the majors
With Jung Ho Kang‘s poor play to start the season, many fans and members of the media wondered if it would be best to send him down to the minors to get consistent at-bats. General manager Neal Huntington crushed all hope of this, as he continued to state that Kang will not be sent down (you can read our analysis of this situation here).
Murky on the Jameson Taillon and Charlie Morton fronts
Jameson Taillon is still recovering from Tommy John surgery, but fans are hoping to see the next part of the Pirates’ future rotation with the team before season’s end. Unfortunately, where he stands at now is his recovery is unclear.
Charlie Morton is also still recovering. He was recently placed on the 15-day disabled list, but may remain out much longer than that. He hasn’t looked the same since having surgery last September.
Could Pirates extend Gerrit Cole and Pedro Alvarez?
Scott Boras recently attended a game at PNC Park and saw many of his clients in action, including Gerrit Cole, Pedro Alvarez, and the Chicago Cubs’ Kris Bryant. Boras mentioned that he doesn’t prevent his clients from signing extensions with their current teams, even though he is notoriously known for his clients playing out their contracts and pursuing free agency. This leaves open the potential for the Pirates to try to extend Cole or Alvarez (you can read our analysis of this situation here).
Mark Melancon continues to struggle
It has been widely reported that Mark Melancon’s velocity has been down to start the season, and his release point has been different than it has in the past. He continued to struggle this week, blowing a two-run lead against the Cubs. Many think all of this points to Melancon having an injury, but the team thinks differently.
After being declared unavailable for one game, Hurdle is behind Melancon remaining in the closer’s role.
Watch for Melancon to get the Jason Grilli treatment if he continues to struggle. He could be a valuable trade chip if the Pirates decided to trade him sooner rather than later.
Recent lineup changes
With minor injuries to Jordy Mercer and Starling Marte this week, and with the Pirates trying to give more players time off this year than the team has in year’s past, Hurdle has gotten creative with the lineup. He’s even taken Andrew McCutchen out of the third spot in the lineup.
This week, the much attention has been paid to the issues at the back end of the bullpen, but there has been plenty of news off the field as well. Most notably, Melancon could become a trade chip, Kang could see more playing time, and Jaff Decker could compete for the last bench spot if Lambo continues to struggle. Stay tuned next week for more rumors and all your off-the-field updates with the Pittsburgh Pirates RumBunter Rumor Mill!
Next: Should the Pittsburgh Pirates extend Gerrit Cole or Pedro Alvarez