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.
- 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.”