As I watched Ronny Cedeno bobble an easy double play ball last night, late in the game, a question crossed my mind: how short should the leash be on Cedeno?
That’s not because of one play. Two nights in a row Cedeno made a poor play on an easy double play grounder, and in both cases he put the Pirates at risk of blowing a late lead. On Sunday he threw wild to second, sending the ball in to right field, and putting the tying run on third with one out. Last night he tried to make the toss too quickly, and bobbled the ball while fielding it.
The question wasn’t really because of two plays. I’m not going to make much, good or bad, out of the small sample size we’ve been given in the early part of the season. Evan Meek has struggled two outings in a row, but I’m not concerned, as he had a great year in 2010, which easily trumps his poor performance in two of three appearances this year. However, Cedeno isn’t like Meek. We’ve seen Cedeno display some inconsistent defense over the last year and a half, to the point where the Pirates benched him on several occasions in 2010.
When I asked the question on Twitter, I got a few responses about how Cedeno is hitting well. Cedeno has come up with some timely hits so far this season, but he’s not exactly hitting well. So far he’s 3-for-13, with all three of his hits being singles. That’s not exactly tearing the cover off the ball.
Now I’m not saying that Cedeno should be benched after four games. I am raising two questions. One: when do the Pirates decide that Cedeno should sit a game, in favor of Josh Rodriguez? Two: how long will it be until Cedeno gets replaced by another option, such as Pedro Ciriaco, or even Chase D’Arnaud, if he has a rebound year in Indianapolis?
On that first question, Rodriguez isn’t getting any playing time yet, which seems strange. Heading in to tonight’s game, he’s the only position player who hasn’t seen any action this year. I know Rodriguez is a Rule 5 pick, but to treat him like a wasted roster spot seems strange. This isn’t a young guy trying to make the jump from high-A to the majors. This is a guy who had success in AAA last year, and is 26 years old. His future is likely as a utility player, and he doesn’t have much to learn at the AAA level to prevent him from getting playing time in the majors. This is basically a sink or swim scenario for Rodriguez, rather than a “we’ll use him as a last resort” scenario. It would be ideal to see what he’s got, especially as a one game fill-in if Cedeno continues to struggle.
On the second question, I could see Cedeno getting the Akinori Iwamura treatment this year. I could see the Pirates sticking with him for about two months (maybe not every game), then pulling him quickly if he doesn’t turn things around. And perhaps two months is too long, depending on how much he struggles. Then again, maybe we see the other side of the inconsistent coin, and watch him catch fire for the majority of those two months.
Ultimately, I think that Cedeno’s future will depend on what guys like Ciriaco and D’Arnaud do in AAA. If a long term option emerges, I don’t see Cedeno holding his job, at least not with the level he’s been playing at in 2010 and in the first four games of the 2011 season. Until someone steps up, I don’t think Cedeno should be an everyday guy if he struggles like he’s done in the first few games. I’d rather see what Josh Rodriguez could do with the occasional start, rather than sending Cedeno out there every day.