Welcome back to Rum Bunter’s weekly Pittsburgh Pirates mailbag
The questions continue at shortstop. Will Francisco Liriano be on the Opening Day roster? And more in this week’s Pittsburgh Pirates mailbag.
As always, thank you to everyone who submitted questions to this week’s mailbag. Now, let’s dive in!
These are all similar so we’ll lump them all together.
Erik Gonzalez and Kevin Newman will enter Spring Training in a battle for the starting job at shortstop. While Gonzalez enters the spring with a leg up, largely due to his plus glove work at the position, with a strong spring Newman could win the job. Expect whoever does not win the job to be the team’s utility infielder to start the season.
Even if both Gonzalez and Newman struggle during Spring Training it is hard to envision someone else starting at shortstop on Opening Day at this point. Throughout the offseason many people, myself included, expected the Pirates to add help at shortstop. However, outside of Manny Machado, the free agent market is weak.
Outside of Nick Ahmed, who the Pirates had extensive discussion about with the Diamondbacks, the trade market is weak as well. And it has been made obvious the Snakes are not looking to move Ahmed despite the best efforts from teams like the Pirates.
Right now, the safe bet to start at shortstop on Opening Day is Gonzalez.
As for Jung Ho Kang, last season Neal Huntington said that Kang’s days playing shortstop at the MLB level were done. Kang played shortstop in the minors last year, which had as much to do with him getting at bats as it did anything else, but, barring something changing, he is not an option to play shortstop for the Pirates in 2019. Unfortunately, the team does not believe his knee will allow him to be an effective MLB shortstop at this point.
Barring a disastrous spring, you can expect Liriano to be part of the Opening Day roster. All signs point toward Jordan Lyles being the fifth starter when the season begins, but Liriano should be considered a favorite to land a bullpen job. Honestly, outside of the four bullpen locks (Felipe Vazquez, Keone Kela, Richard Rodriguez, Kyle Crick) the only reliever I feel more confident in saying cracks the Opening Day roster than Liriano is Nick Kingham who is out of minor league options.
Before rosters expand in September? Absolutely. Last September Pablo Reyes came to Pittsburgh and made an impact both with the bat and in the field for the Pirates. Combine this with his ability to play all over the field and he will undoubtedly see time in the Majors before September.
Will he be part of the Opening Day roster? After the addition of Melky Cabrera over the weekend my guess would be no. But when the Bucs need a position player from Triple-A it would not be a surprise to see Reyes be the first player to get a call.
*Looks up at the Bob Walk falling chair bobblehead on the Pirate shelf in my living room*
Absolutely! This was the greatest moment of Walk’s long career with the Pirates, and I’m not sure it will ever be topped.
That will do it for this week. If you ever have a question for the mailbag look for our Tweet each week looking for questions. Also, do not be afraid to ask on Facebook. And make sure you follow us on both Twitter and Facebook!