The Pittsburgh Pirates selected Connor Joe with the 39th overall pick in the 2014 draft, taking him with the first round competitive balance pick they got for trading Bryan Morris. Joe has yet to make his debut, after going down with an injury before he could get into a game last year. That will change tomorrow, as he joined West Virginia today and will make his pro debut tomorrow.

After signing last year, Joe reported to Jamestown, where he suffered a back injury that put him out of action for the season. He described that the injury happened when he was shagging balls in the outfield. He landed on his heel and jarred his back a little bit. He originally thought it was just a tweak, but really felt it when he threw. Joe clarified that it wasn’t a disk injury.

Since he was out of baseball for eight months, the Pirates took it slow getting him back into action. In mid-March when other players were starting to play exhibition games, Joe was taking grounders and first base and third base, while getting swings in off a tee during batting practice. That was the extent of his workload, with the Pirates being cautious while trying to build him back up.

Joe eventually moved to playing in games in extended Spring Training. He would take innings in the field at first base without hitting. On days where he would hit, he wouldn’t field, and wouldn’t even run out the balls that were hit.

“I think just with the back, the impact is tough with running, so they wanted to wait and hold off on that for the longest,” Joe said on why the Pirates didn’t have him running. “They did a good job with me.”

The no running approach changed on May 2nd, when he played in the field and took at-bats for the first time in the same game, playing five innings. His build up from that was obviously a quick one. He played another game at seven innings, then played a few full games. The Pirates felt he was ready to go after that.

“The physical therapist there did a great job,” Joe said. “The games were quick. The whole time I was taking live at-bats. I got a good amount of live at-bats, probably as much as these guys got in Spring Training.”

Joe will make his debut tomorrow, according to West Virginia manager Brian Esposito. He was drafted as an outfielder, but has been playing mostly first base, which is where he’s expected to play. He could factor in at third base eventually, but Jordan Luplow looks to be the primary guy at that position. Expect Joe to also get time at DH when Chase Simpson plays first base, with all three players rotating between the three positions.

“It’s been a long road,” Joe said of his pending debut. “It’s an unbelievable feeling.”

Pirates Prospects will have live coverage of tomorrow’s West Virginia game.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Finally….8-10 months out for a non-disc related back ailment? What exactly was he diagnosed with then? Why is it such a big secret? Having had back issues and back surgery, I have never heard of a non-disc related injury in the back keeping a pro athlete out for almost a year.

    I am happy that he is finally able to play and for his sake I hope whatever the problem was, that it is now behind him. Last year’s draft is not looking so great thus far, so lets hope Tucker, Keller, Joe, etc. all put together solid seasons now.

    • Keep in mind that 8-10 months includes the off-season. He was hurt in June, and was really out for about 4 months (rest of the season + instructs). Then you’ve got 4 months during the off-season before Spring Training starts. It might have been a different timeline if he had the injury in February at the start of a season.

      • Yes, it includes the off season – but he also missed Fall and Winter baseball – which were critical after missing so much time last year. I assume he would have played, had he been healthy, since he still wasn’t ready this Spring?

        • He probably wouldn’t have played in a winter league. Very few lower level guys do that, unless they’re from a country that has winter ball. Even then, those guys don’t get much time.

          I also doubt he would have played much in instructs. I know he was there, but I don’t know how healthy he was at the time. That said, they’re probably not putting him in games after missing a few months. And the instructs game schedule is about 3 weeks long and ends in mid-October. So if the back injury put him out four months, then he would have had no chance to play in those games.

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