Morton Returns Monday

Charlie Morton returns to the mound Monday, making his season-debut against the Miami Marlins. His return means the Pirates starting rotation, already pitching very well, becomes even stronger if he returns to the form that netted him a contract extension before the 2014 season.

But it also means the Pirates have a roster move to make. It’s one that could go in a couple different directions.

At present, general manager Neal Huntington doesn’t have anything offer on the impending roster move but it sounds like he knows what the plan is.

“We’ve got a pretty good script on where we’ll go with it,” Huntington said. “We’ve still got a game here to play today and we can make the move before Charlie starts tomorrow. We’ll announce that tomorrow.”

An option would be to designate someone like Antonio Bastardo for assignment, mostly due to his lackluster performance this season. Bastardo owns a 5.56 ERA in 11 1/3 innings this season, but his loss would also leave the Pirates with only one left-handed reliever in Tony Watson.

Among other relievers Radhames Liz has pitched better of late. Rob Scahill has one minor-league option remaining, but his 1.02 ERA over 17 2/3 innings likely blocks any demotion for the right-hander.

It’s unlikely any position player will be moved as the Pirates configure their roster, and any possible move related to an injury is unknown.

Infield Depth

Jung-Ho Kang has not only provided the Pirates with another source of offense as he’s shown he can play every day, he’s also allowed for more flexibility in the Pirates lineup. Sunday, for instance, featured Kang at third, Josh Harrison at second base, Jordy Mercer at shortstop and Sean Rodriguez at first to stack the lineup with right-handed hitters against Mets left-hander Jonathon Niese.

Like Kang, Harrison and Rodriguez are both able to play multiple positions which provides manager Clint Hurdle the opportunity to do things with his lineup like he did Sunday. In addition, it allows the Pirates to be more aggressive when providing the necessary rest for players, notably Neil Walker who has spent on the disabled list in each of the past three seasons.

“[Hurdle’s] going to continue to move those guys around,” Huntington said. “He did it here today and it gives him the ability to put out what he feels is the best lineup that gives us the best chance to win that day. I think it’s great we’ve put him in the position to be able to do that.”

Tabata to First?

An idea floated to Huntington during his media session Sunday regarded the possibility of Jose Tabata learning how to play first base in order to get him in the lineup more often. Tabata made his first start of the season Sunday and has three pinch-hit appearances since he was recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis Tuesday.

The general manager put it simply in that moving a player who plays far away from the ball to a position close to the ball does not make for an easy transition.

Huntington compared the proposition to that facing Josh Bell in Double-A, an outfielder the Pirates are converting to first base because the major-league outfield is set in stone for the foreseeable future. As Bell finds challenges in his defensive assignment, the organization learns about the process as well.

Of course, Bell’s situation is different from Tabata’s in that Bell is one of the organization’s top prospects and the veteran has proven himself to be a fourth outfielder on a good major-league team.

“It might be a bit challenging to ask him to do that,” Huntington said. “Although I bet if we asked him, he’d probably do it. He’d probably put his first baseman’s mitt on in a heartbeat and run over there.”

Tabata probably won’t get the chance to do that though, as it’s not something the Pirates intend on asking him to do, at least in the immediate future. Huntington cited the depth at first behind Pedro Alvarez in Corey Hart and Sean Rodriguez, even offering Francisco Cervelli could man first “in a pinch.”

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28 COMMENTS

  1. Why waive Hart? Trade him for a low-level prospect. Many teams would jump at that. He’s an awfully cheap lottery ticket for a team having problems at 1B or an AL team in need of a part-time DH.

    The same with most of the bullpen – rather than optioning a guy to Indy, trade him for a non 40-man reliever who needs to be fixed to be in the ML later this year. There are dozens of those guys around, and Benedict can help many of them.

  2. Im fully aboard the “lets end the Liz experiment now” train. I liked the idea for cheap, but i dont see him as nearly as useful in his current role as Worley…or Locke….or anyone. Worley fits decent as the long man, giving Morton a spot, and at worst a desperate team takes Liz in waivers. LHP or not, at least with Bastardo i see the signs of his overall stuff from previous years usefulness. Liz consistently makes me think he is just going up and flinging it and hoping its in the spot he wants.

  3. Moves I would make…..
    (1) Waive Hart – promote Lombardozzi or Romero
    (2) Waive Worley – he can go free agent or accept demotion to Indy – that makes room for Morton
    (3) Waive Morel from Indy – promote Bell to Indy, which allows Osuna to move up to Altoona.

    • To be civil, Bell is NOT ready for AAA. The consistent power and the number of awkward ABs means he needs more time in AA.

      • To be equally civil, I disagree – he may not be hitting for power, but that will come whether in AA or AAA. I think he is ready for the greater challenge, as is Osuna. Plan B for me would be to move Allie to AAA instead of Bell, and play Allie at 1B and some OF in Indy. Osuna could than move to Altoona and play LF or RF.

        • I figured Allie would go to AAA this year as first baseman. I was honestly confused at first with the move to the outfield but I can understand try to get something out of his big arm.

        • Even if you don’t care about the total lack of power – and I do – his 1B defense needs a ton of work. He is more than a year away from the majors right now. No need to rush him when he can’t handle the position defensively yet.

        • Defensively, Bell is not ready. He is doing an acceptable job learning the position but still needs more time before he’s ready for 1B at AAA. Moving him now would probably hurt his development in this area and, if they envision him long term in that position, it’d be a bad mistake to move him too quickly.

    • Hart I’m not sure about yet. He sure looks pitiful at the plate sometimes. No way I’d dfa Worley. Anyone in the rotation goes down he steps in. With Cumpton out for the year you need that guy who can step right in and start for you. Bell is not ready for AAA yet. No need to push him to hard and set him back. He needs to build confidence at first base and is a little raw yet for that aggressive of a promotion. Make him force his way to Indy, not move him there because of need.

      • Hart is useless – he can’t move and offers nothing in the field. Lombardozzi or Romero have earned the opportunity and both would provider more flexibility and better bats off the bench.

        • I am starting to feel the same way. Wouldn’t be surprised by hart being dfa’d sometime in the near future.

      • Sampson and Sadler, as well as Richard, have all earned the opportunity to get shots at promotions. Worley is what has always been, a very mediocre pitcher.

        • I honestly forgot about Richard. I’d go to Sampson if I had to but would like to see a little more seasoning at AAA for him. I just would hate to see them give up on Worley so fast.

        • Always mediocre, except for 2011 when he had that 3 ERA, 3.32 FIP and mid 3 xFIP…all more than pure mediocrity.

          And 2014, with the sub 3 ERA, mid 3 FIP and xFIP…better than mediocre.

          So you have the other two mediocre years (one of which was less than 60 innings) where one at least has to admit he was dealing with injury issues. If you go so far as to excuse his 50 some innings with MIN as recovering from injury, he’s got 2 years of decent work and 1 poor year. And a month of starts this year. So valid to think we have better options in a crowded rotation…but not sensible to think he cant function well in the bullpen when we are rostering Liz as the current long man.

          Liz throws hard, doesnt really know where its going, and gets hit hard often. Even if you think Worley doesnt throw hard, is hittable and gets hit hard often…at least Liz has a shot at clearing waivers.

          • Of the 121 starters who have thrown 400 innings since 2011, Worely is 46th by FIP-, and 66th by ERA-. I’ll never understand the want to jettison effective players, because of recent performance.

            • Absolutely, im usually not surprised by the reflexiveness but after all the fan support Worley seemed to have by the end of last year i assumed a slow start wouldnt bring out pitchforks for many.

    • BFS: Lombo as a switchhitter who has played 5 different positions is an excellent add – I would probably pick Tabata to go back down. Worley is worthwhile and would not make it through waivers; therefore save him for a trade. With Kang around, there is no need for another 3B (Morel), and Hunter Morris has been DOA. Bell deserves to be in AAA right now, playing alongside Alen Hanson.

      • Accrding to comments on this site Deibinson Romero was tries at 1B in the Spring, but I haven’t heard any comments on how he performed there. Given that his bat is doing well I see him as a valid replacement for Corey Hart, provided he can actually do a good defensive job at 1B. I’m not sure why he isn’t the regular at 1B at Indy right now given Hunter Morris’ poor start.

    • So we waive Worley, a rather acceptable option as long reliever, to make room for Morton while keeping Liz on the roster to do long relief work as he has done so far, poorly. Why santa why.

    • Waive Worley? Are you drunk?

      For the one billionth time, YOU CAN NEVER HAVE TOO MUCH PITCHING!

      I will be surprised if Pirates do anything but send Scahill down to activate Morton.

      As for Bell, patience is the word to keep in mind for him and his development. Best for him and the organization, just not for us fans.

      • You had me until “send Scahill down”. He’s the third best reliever they have right now, and despite the options left, it would be insane to take him out. Keep Worley as the long man and it’s Bastardo or Liz who are out. What good is an LHP with an ERA over 5?

        • ERA is not how organizations judge relievers. The reason I thought they would send Scahill down to make room for Morton is because he was only RP with an option left. The Pirates must believe Liz will make it through waivers.

  4. Liz or Bastardo is coming down with a toe injury and going on the DL. Sample size is too small on Bastardo and Cahill for that matter. As far as Cahill going down, he isn’t pitching any better than Holdzkom did in the heat of a pennant race and they sent him to AAA out of Spring Training.

  5. If Locke was going to the bullpen I would say Bastardo would be the guy to go. But since it isn’t I would say it’s Liz.

  6. Why would they want Tabata in the line up more often? He has been put thru waivers and nobody else will touch his contract.
    The new swing he worked on with Byrd hasn’t worked. All I see is his ground ball swing.

    • Maybe because he is hitting the ball and getting on base. Ground ball swing or not, he’s hitting better than the other options the Pirates have at the moment.

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