Andrew Lambo could be an option for the Pirates at first base in 2014. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Andrew Lambo off to a hot start after return from thumb injury

After missing two and a half months following surgery on his right thumb, Andrew Lambo did not waste any time getting back into the swing of things. In the first six games, he is hitting for a .462/.481/.808 line in 26 at-bats, with three doubles and two home runs.

“It’s feeling good,” Lambo said. “I got some good pitches to hit the other day. I faced (Justin) Masterson yesterday. That is different, four days in to be facing some arms and having to face a pretty established big leaguer. It was a good opportunity to see some pretty good pitching. I had some quality at bats and we are getting better. It is getting stronger and I am getting more comfortable at the plate.”

Overall, Lambo is hitting .370 with four home runs and 16 doubles in 32 games with Indianapolis this season. However, on Sunday, against Masterson, Lambo struck out twice on the way to a 0-for-5 game. Strikeouts have been an issue for him, as he has fanned 28 times in 119 at bats for the campaign. This is compared to just 14 walks through Wednesday. Last season, Lambo struck out 127 times in 444 at bats between Altoona and Indianapolis, so the struggle is nothing new for the slugger.

Lambo credits the fast start to the work that he put in with the rest of his body while rehabbing the thumb. While the rehab process can be a tedious endeavor for athletes, Lambo said that the hard work is now paying off.

“Sometimes when you get into a rehab, you can get caught up in that negative, ‘this is a drag,’ routine, but you just have to try to make a positive out of things and challenge yourself to work as hard as possible when you are in that cast and in that splint,” Lambo said. “The harder that you work in that cast and in that splint, the recovery of getting back on the baseball field is that much easier. You definitely don’t want to go home and sit on the couch for a month and a half and try to get back to pro ball because this is a tough game.”

Pirates General Manager Neal Huntington has noticed Lambo’s hard work as well and is aware that the bounce back is due to the effort that he put in.

“It’s been great to see him get rewarded for how hard he worked on his rehab,” Huntington said. “He worked hard to keep the non-injured baseball parts of his body in baseball condition. That’s definitely showing. He’s been able to jump back much quicker than most young players, or most players come back from thumb surgery.”

The two home runs since returning matched Lambo’s production in that category for the entire first half of the season. However, Lambo did have 13 doubles over that span. As he told me earlier this season, Lambo looks to drive the ball into the gaps for doubles when he is at his best, and will just let the home runs come.

“It felt really good to get some swings off like that,” Lambo said. “I am just playing day by day, excited to help the team. I feel fortunate to have a jersey on and we go from there.”

While Lambo went only 4-for-25 in rehab stints with GCL and Jamestown, getting some work in was something that he credits for easing him back in. He also is pleased with how the coaching staff handles the players within the organization.

“We have a great coaching staff and a great manager here, who knows when to put you in the lineup and when to give you a day off,” Lambo said. This also allowed him to ease back in once he gets to the Triple-A level.

Lambo will split time between first base and the outfield – right and left — with some DH mixed in. He played his first game at first base last night since his return. Regardless of where he is placed on the field, Lambo is up to the challenge.

“There is going to be bounce-around situations, and you have to take on the challenge,” Lambo said. “I want to help out the big league club, but also help out this club. If that is playing one day at first, then one day in right, one day in left and then one day DHing, I look forward to that challenge.”

It is this versatility that leads Huntington to point out how excited that they were with Lambo going into the spring and that he is “certainly still in our plans moving forward.”

While he is making no doubt that his ultimate goal is to end up in Pittsburgh by the end of the season, Lambo is setting his remaining season goals to improving each day.

“I just want to get better in every facet of the game,” Lambo said. “I want to have fun and play this game the way that I know that I am capable of and play hard. It’s all about coming here and getting better. Nobody is going to be perfect in this game. We are going to make mistakes. We’re not going to get hits and then we are going to get hits, it’s all in how you deal with them.”

While the injury severely set Lambo back, there is little doubt that he will get another big league look in September when the rosters expand, if not before. With the lack of depth in the Pittsburgh outfield, outside of Josh Harrison, if Lambo is able to keep the hits consistent and the strikeouts down, he could be able to provide a nice shot in the arm in Pittsburgh this season. Lambo could also see some time at first base if Ike Davis continues to struggle.

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Ryan Palencer

Ryan joined Pirates Prospects as the Indianapolis Triple-A writer in 2014. Prior to joining Pirates Prospects, Ryan covered high school, college and professional sports in the Indianapolis area. For more updates throughout the season, follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanpalencer.

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  • http://batman-news.com NMR

    Lack of depth in the Pittsburgh outfield? Pirates have THREE reserves – Harrison (115 wRC+), Snider (103 wRC+), and Tabata (88 wRC+) – hitting better than any other non-starting outfielder in the National League not named Scott Van Slyke.
    Great to see Lambo doing well, but he’s got a lot of guys to jump.

  • S Brooks

    Fine time for Snider to decide to start hitting.

    • http://www.facebook.com/andy.prough.3 Andy Prough

      Seems like a fine time to me!

  • lonleylibertarian

    I guess we have to let the Ike Davis mini surge run it’s course – but Lambo is probably the better option for the Bucs as the LH first base platoon for the rest of the season and long term…

    In fact a Lambo/Hague tandem would be a better choice than the current Davis/Sanchez platoon – and cost a whole lot less…

    For the last 28 days…

    Player BA/OPS
    Snider .320/.873
    Harrison .274/.682
    Davis .196/.579
    Sanchez .184/.559

    • Pie Rat

      2 months ago a few other teams were really interested in Ike Davis he’s played as expected so are they still interested. Ike still has a pretty good OBP maybe there’s a team that he would have more value to. Is Lambo still getting reps at 1st base in AAA?

    • http://batman-news.com NMR

      The Legend of The Hit Collector resurfaces?
      .
      Gaby Sanchez is a career .297/.392/.495 hitter against LHP. Matt Hague has an OPS of .828 against LHP over four seasons of AAA ball.
      .
      If you prefer to play it cheap and not pay $3m or so for Gaby that’s fine, but don’t kid yourself into believing Hague would be nearly as good.

  • st1300b

    I was never a fan of Ike – don’t like his game really. I’m not really a fan of Lambo more though. I still see Josh Bell as the primary future at 1b… with an outside shot of Stetson Allie figuring it out – kid has mad pop.

    Short term it’s probably fine to have a few vets haggle over playing time at the corner.

    • lonleylibertarian

      Well the Lambo/Hague platoon have some advantages.
      1. They are a LOT cheaper – save $5M or more next year…
      2. The both can be used elsewhere – Hague has spent a lot of time at third and Lambo has played both corner OF positions.
      3. They are both relatively young and have several years of team control.

      Bell is 2016 at best
      Allie might be a year later than that if ever

      • S Brooks

        Lambo will have a role on this team in 2015; whether it’s in place of Snider or Davis remains to be seen.

        Hague, on the other hand, offers nothing the Pirates couldn’t find in a dumpster this offseason. And he’s not exactly young – he turns 29 next month, so he’s likely hit his peak already.

        Gaby may not provide enough return for the Bucs’ liking given his projected arb salary next year (~$3M), but if saving money is the name of the game there will be better options than Hague available for about the same money. Keep an eye on Corey Hart, who is going to lose AB to Kendry Morales, and while he’s had a rough go of it in Seattle, his underlying peripherals are all in line with career norms. Great bounce back candidate for next year, and his market will be depressed.

      • moose7195

        And both have shown an inability to hit major league pitching.

        • lonleylibertarian

          Go check out the Oakland box score from tonight and get back to me

          • moose7195

            Why the hell do I care that Oakland dropped 13 runs on bad pitcher who pitches for a team that’s 18 games under .500. The Pirates just dropped 12 on a team that was 11 games over. Picking one game to make a point is a terrible way to make an argument.

            • lonleylibertarian

              You and others keep trying to say Lambo has failed – he is I believe 25 and has less than 100 mL plate appearances. Why not give him a fair shot and work with him to see if he is the next Brian Moss or Jose Bautista. And Moss has been doing the job at a high level for 4 years – not one game.

              The money saved with my approach could go towards resigning Martin.

              • http://batman-news.com NMR

                I think the difference of opinion regarding Lambo may just be semantics. Andrew Lambo has failed in the big leagues. He had every opportunity to be the current 1B of the Pittsburgh Pirates, and failed to capitalize. However, that doesn’t mean he is a failure. Still absolutely deserves a shot, and he’ll almost certainly get it at some point. I just don’t think that requires blowing up the current platoon leaving zero backup options if Lambo doesn’t succeed. Ike Davis hitting the DL is about as sure of a bet as any. Lambo will have chances.

        • lonleylibertarian

          Kinda like the current platoon that will cost North of $5 M if they are back for 2015

          • moose7195

            Who said that those 2 have to be back? Your plan has a guy with a career OPS in the majors of .527 (Hague) and another at .703 (Lambo) platooning at the position. You’re talking about 1 HR and 9 RBI’s in 107 PA’s. In what way do those 2 provide a better product on the field than the guys we have now? By the numbers, your platoon is clearly a step beneath the guys we suffer through now. Why can’t they bring in a better option through FA for 2015, and keep the quad A players in AAA?

  • S Brooks

    Might just be an artifact of a bygone era – Fangraphs, which popularized the statistic, calculated it as K/AB until a few years ago.

    • ginbear

      Seems like. Fangraphs changed that in 2011. Never made sense to use a number where walks would basically count against a player.

      • http://www.piratesprospects.com/ Tim Williams

        They either changed it in 2011 or 2012. We made the switch in the Prospect Guide a year later. I’m pretty sure we started that for the 2013 book.

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