Pirates Notebook: When Will the Bucs Play the Best 25?

Brandon Inge

Brandon Inge has struggled through more than 100 Pirates plate appearances. How many more will he get? (Photo Credit: David Hague)

The Pirates look to snap a three-game losing streak and avoid a third straight series loss Tuesday night as they face the Oakland Athletics. Manager Clint Hurdle appears to be fielding his optimal lineup as second baseman Neil Walker was placed on the disabled list right before the game.

Brandon Inge is not in the starting lineup after starting two straight games at second base. The veteran infielder has the Major League’s 357th-ranked OPS out of 359 eligible hitters and a -0.4 wins above replacement this season. Inge is praised around baseball for his leadership and being a good teammate, but the Pirates may have to look for those qualities elsewhere.

“We continually evaluate across the board with all our players,” Hurdle said. “You have some tough decisions to make as your organization continues to grow, your player pool gets better.”

Hurdle added that he has to keep concerns about fielding the best 25-man roster and having a deep organization “in fair balance,” and that he does not take decisions about a player’s future with the Pirates lightly. The organization has lost players like LHP Doug Slaten, OF Drew Sutton, RHP Chris Leroux, RHP Evan Meek, RHP Hunter Strickland and 1B Clint Robinson over the last two years to open up spots on the 40-man roster.

“You don’t do it overnight,” Hurdle said. “We’ve been doing it since the winter, since spring training.”

As for Tuesday’s lineup, Jordy Mercer will play second base and Clint Barmes will play shortstop behind starting pitcher Gerrit Cole. Hurdle had previously said he would prefer not to use Mercer at second base but the manager ”changed [his] mind. Seriously.”

Tuesday marks the second day in a row Barmes finds himself in the starting lineup, the first two-game streak for him since June 11. The shortstop went 2-for-4 Monday night and lined a pitch that was nearly the go-ahead hit in the Pirates’ loss. Barmes says he just have to “take what the game gives me” instead of thinking he’s “gotta” do certain things to succeed.

Bonus Notes!

  • Pitcher Jeff Locke is eligible to pitch one inning in the All-Star Game even if he starts for the Pirates on Sunday. Hurdle will discuss the possibility with Locke soon.
  • Hurdle was hoping Pedro Alvarez would get a chance in the Home Run Derby, but Alvarez was passed over by National League captain David Wright. The Mets and Wright come to PNC Park for a three-game series this weekend. “Obviously our fanbase will have an opportunity to show their feelings this weekend,” Hurdle said with a laugh. “We have a passionate group here in Pittsburgh.”
  • There are “ongoing” conversations about recalling catcher Tony Sanchez, Hurdle said, but the catcher still has “things to work on… not concerns, it’s work.”
James Santelli

Author: James Santelli

James covers the Pirates beat for Pirates Prospects. He is a Broadcast Journalism student at USC and has written for such outlets as NBCOlympics.com, Pittsburgh Magazine and the official websites of the Los Angeles Clippers and Pittsburgh Penguins. James previously covered the Pirates for Pittsburgh Sports Report. He also broadcasts play-by-play for the USC Trojans baseball team and was awarded the 2013 Chick Hearn Memorial Scholarship and Allan Malamud Scholarship. James dispenses puns at his Twitter account (@JamesSantelli) where he promises to write in first-person. Google

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  • rburgh

    If the Pirates’ fan base had spent half as much time worrying about feeding the poor as they have spent b***hing about Brandon Inge, we would have cured hunger by now. His job is to be available to fill in anywhere with capable defense in case of a late-game move or injury. If they think he’s a better defender than Harrison or deJesus, who are we to argue. They get to see those guys take hundreds of ground balls a week, we see them take a few once every couple of weeks.

    Although I know Barmes has played 2nd before, so maybe they need to dig that fact out of their collective memory bank. Still, I don’t know if Barmes has any experience at third, and Gaby often comes in and out of the lineup for other reasons.

    Teams go through good and bad streaks – hell, the ’27 Yankees only won 110 games, why are we getting so up tight about a team that has a .600 winning percentage?

    • smurph

      “His job is to be available to fill in anywhere with capable defense in case of a late-game move or injury.” I disagree. #1 use of a bench player is to pinch hit (or in the case of Inge pinch non-hit) in the late innings when you need offense. Bench players need to be able to hit moreso than provide capable defense.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tyler.fankhauser.1 Tyler Fankhauser

    To my knowledge you’re playoff eligible players must be on you’re 25 man by August 31st so by then won’t you HAVE to add the likes of Sanchez Lambo and maybe even a D’arnaud Presley type to the bench? I know its a ways away but the need to have guys like Inge and Barmes even Mac seems to becoming more of a hindrance than anything.

  • http://www.facebook.com/matt.beam.16 Matt Beam

    this team needs an offensive spark, the last week has been about as horrendous an offensive display as I can imagine, meanwhile the Cards are putting up a ton of runs every night