Pirates Place Francisco Cervelli on the DL After Hamate Surgery, Acquire Erik Kratz

The Pittsburgh Pirates have placed starting catcher Francisco Cervelli on the 15-day disabled list with a broken hamate bone in his left hand, per a team press release. He injured himself while batting in the fourth inning last night. He underwent surgery today to remove the hook of the hamate bone. His estimated return is 4-6 weeks.

As a result of this, the Pirates have acquired catcher Erik Kratz from the Los Angeles Angels for cash considerations, the team announced. Kratz is expected to join the Pirates for tonight’s game. The Pirates have designated right-handed pitcher Trey Haley for assignment to make room for Kratz on the 40-man roster.

I don’t think I need to go into much detail on Kratz to any Pirates fans. He was with the Pirates briefly in 2010, and since then he hasn’t been more than what he was — a strong defensive catcher with a poor bat, posting a career .642 OPS. He’s in his age 36 season, and struggling this year, going 2-for-29 while bouncing around between San Diego, Houston, and the Angels. So this isn’t a great addition, but he’ll provide the Pirates with strong defense as a backup for the next 4-6 weeks, while Chris Stewart serves as the starter.

I think the Pirates have a deep enough offense that they can afford to go with Stewart as the starter, and be without Cervelli for a bit. They actually haven’t gotten much offensive production from Cervelli over the last month, but have still managed a strong offense. The big concern here is that hamate surgery can sap a hitter’s power for up to a year, so when Cervelli returns, he might not have the same offensive production he had early in the year and last year, and the power might not return until around this time next year.

UPDATE: From Alan Saunders in Pittsburgh:

Chris Stewart will likely be the starting catcher for the majority of the Pirates’ games for the next two months, but Clint Hurdle was hesitant to name him the full-time starer.

“I think we have to make sure we keep Stew in a competitive place where we can keep his energy strong,” Hurdle said. “He’s never had to play [six or seven days] in a row. We’ll see what Kratz can do, as well. He’s done a good job as a backup.”

Kratz is on a flight that’s expected to land in Pittsburgh at 5:00 p.m. and should make it to the ballpark on time for tonight’s 7:15 p.m. start. Stewart will start at catcher tonight.

Kratz’s time with the Pirates in 2010 predated Hurdle, but he recalled Jeff Banister maintaining a relationship with him. Since the Pirates’ disastrous catching season in 2011, the team has kept a dossier of players that may be available at the position, and Kratz happened to fit the bill on short notice.

“[What happened in 2011] really got everyone’s attention, mine included, and since then we’ve made sure that we’re networking catchers, keeping an eye on guys and the depth charts of other organizations in case we got in another one of these situations,” Hurdle explained.

One solution to his catching problem that Hurdle hasn’t embraced is using first baseman John Jaso. Jaso spent the first six seasons of his big-league career at catcher, but concussions ended his seasons in 2013 and 2014, prompting a move out from behind the plate.

“From my perspective, Im going to have trouble putting a man that spent time out with a concussion back behind the plate,” Hurdle said. “That’s something that, if we got to that point, I would have to talk with Neal and talk with Jaso.”

Jaso said he offered to catch in an emergency situation at the beginning of the season.

Top catching prospect Elias Diaz is continuing his rehab at extended spring training. He is playing catch, but not throwing out of a crouch, and has just begun swinging a bat. There is no current timeframe when he is expected to return.

Hurdle credited general manager Neal Huntington’s work through the night to get the trade done and get Kratz to Pittsburgh in a timely fashion. Huntington’s work for the day wasn’t finished there, either.

Other Moves

The Pirates recalled right-handed relievers Rob Scahill and Arquimedes Caminero before the game, giving the bullpen a much-needed injection of available arms. Going down are right-handed reliever Kyle Lobstein and infielder Cole Figueroa. Lobstein threw 3.1 innings over the last two days and probably would not have been available.

Caminero had pitched four innings over three rehab appearances with Triple-A Indianapolis, giving up four runs on four hits. He was put on the disabled list with a quad strain after hitting two Arizona Diamondbacks in the head on May 24. Caminero has a 2.14 MLB WHIP this season, mostly caused by 13 free passes in 17.1 innings.

Scahill was sent down on June 4. On the season, he has pitched 11.1 innings for the Pirates and has given up nine hits, five walks and four earned runs for a 3.18 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP.

The team had no update on starting pitcher Gerrit Cole, who left his start on Friday with right triceps tightness. He was scheduled to undergo further testing today.


• Francisco Liriano will make his first start in eight days after having his usual turn pushed back three days. His last time out was his worst performance of 2016. He gave up 10 hits and seven runs in 3.1 innings against he Los Angeles Angels.

“[We’re looking for] consistency in the strike zone and more command of the pitches,” Hurdle said. “That’s been the separator from what he’s been able to do in the past with the inconsistency that’s going on right now. He’s underneath counts more than he’s been in the past, so the pitch efficiency and the ability to get deep into games isn’t what it’s been in the past. He did some really good work in between. So now it’s the point of taking that work and putting it into a game situation.”

The Pirates won’t make any firm starting pitching plans until they get further information about Cole. Jon Niese will pitch the series finale Sunday. The team is off on Monday.

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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Thomas G

How in the world does Cervelli break his hand swinging the bat. He cant be swinging it that hard he has Zero HR’s this year and a total of 5 Xtra base hits.


Any chance the pirates are still looking for catching options or is Kratz the guy for 6 weeks?


Calling The Fort Calling The Fort!!!!

Bill W

Garbage in Garbage out! Wow what a great minor league system when we bring in a tomato can and two more batting practice pitchers. This type of move reminds me of 2011 season.


At this point it would be pretty hard to sap Cervelli’s power any further.


Well, we have two nearly automatic outs now in the lineup – pitcher and catcher. When will Diaz be healthy and available?

Luke S

Thats been true for a month and the offense has still had no issues.


except when we play teams with good pitching….Cubs, Mets, Cards, Marlins

Luke S

We took 2 of 3 from the Mets and lost the final one due to pitching.


How did Cervelli break his hand while swinging the bat? That’s the definition of injury prone. Looks like we are going to really regret giving this guy a three year extension.


I GOT 4 WORDS FOR YA!!!: There’s no trade clause!

Cervelli just needs to stay healthy going into any offseason.

Alan Saunders

It’s not a hand injury, per se. The hamate is a very small bone that is actually attached to the wrist. It’s a very common injury amongst baseball players and usually happens exactly how it did with Cervelli: an otherwise innocent-looking swing.


So not injury prone, just some more bad luck in a season in which the Bucs have already had more than their share. Even if everything goes well with the surgery Cervelli will be lucky to complete his recovery and rehab by the beginning of August. And it generally takes another couple of weeks before a player is back to normal, especially with a hand injury. Bottom line is that we probably won’t have full strength Cervelli until the last six weeks of the season.

Luke S

Bet you a case of beer he doesnt do more than 3-5 days of rehab games before just joining the team.

I can live without offense from Cervelli, I cant live with Stallings/Kratz as backup more than 5 weeks.


Usually this is how the hook of the hamate is broken.


And how often does this happen in a season? Still sounds like the kind of thing that happens with an injury prone player.


It is a pretty common injury, Marte, and Alvarez both that their hamate’s removed, when the were in the minors. I think Walker did too, a good number of major leagues hitter have also had the surgery.

When I think injury prone I think repeated muscle, ligament issues, not broken bones.

Luke S

A few players are actually on record saying if you are going to mess up part of the hand, the hamate is the way to do it.

You take it out and move forward. Not ideal, but better than breaking other bones in the hand.

Luke S

No reason to think the injury happened on one swing.

Just as easy to think its been a nagging injury he tried to play through and was a big reason he hit like shit for a month.

Arik Florimonte

Stanton broke his the same way. I don’t think it’s uncommon.

Brian Bernard

Hamate bone breaks aren’t rare and it’s hard to call this part of Cervelli’s injury history at all.
Also 4-6 weeks isn’t the year he should be back.


maybe the wrist has been hurt for a while, no hr’s this season and has not been hitting for a month.

Luke S

Annnnnnnd this was the reasoning behind many fans going “a Cervelli extension carries enough risk to avoid if at all possible”.


Bargain contract! No trade clause! Easy trade! NICE return! Just stay healthy going into any offseason!


is diaz still throwing off flat ground, when will he start playing?

William S

…also feeling like an update on where Diaz is at in the rehab process is prudent atm.


It really doesn’t matter who our catcher is if they don’t figure out the pitching issues. Rotation and bullpen both struggling big time. Like Teke said on one of the post games, they are finding ways to lose. Were still in the thick of the wild card hunt, but I’m starting to wonder who the real pitching guru was.


would have liked to see something better than Kratz. First off, Stewart is not a starter, even for a 5 week period. They are in trouble in more areas than one. EXPOSED

Stephen Brooks

No more exposed than the other 29 teams. You lose 2 of your top 3 catchers, you’re going to be dealing with the Erik Kratzes of the world.


Would rather see Stallings get an oppurtunity. He projects as a big league backup anyhow.

Brian Bernard

On the money here Mike367. Stallings has shown the offensive improvements and the pitchers rave about his defensive game.
Kratz should be at AAA and Stallings should be getting the call. Kratz is below par on all fronts.

Luke S

When did Stallings show offensive improvements?

Hitting .217 in April? or .224 in May?

He’s not getting on base, and looks every bit a pure defense option right now. Which is what Katz is.

I love using young options to fill out the bench, but not when they show 0 reason to think they can hit even .200 in the majors.

Kratz is a fine defensive catcher.


Stallings has hit 2 home runs. In one game he was 4 for 4, one of the four was a home run.
As for offensive improvements he will improve in Indianapolis.
He could still fill in as a back-up for the Pirates. So what the heck, they have been bouncing pitchers back and forth. Why not Stallings for interim fill in?

Luke S

Because when you defend his hitting you actually have to use a few games, because he has been awful month to month and shown little reason to be anywhere near ML ready on offense.

2 whole home runs and a game where he hit well. Wowza.

David Rosenberg

Bad news. Shades of Pat Meares. I think I would have rather seen Jacob Stalling than Kratz. Kratz is old now and his below average hitting has gotten a lot worse. Where is the Fort when you need him?

Luke S

Below average hitting doesnt stop with Kratz, Stalling would also be a very light bat.

Both offer decent defense, so if anything at least Kratz wont be transitioning at all. Where as Stalling, while I think he’s as capable as Kratz, would be facing a steep issue in hitting ML arms since he hasnt even touched AAA arms yet.

David Rosenberg

Luke – what you say is true. Stallings is more athletic and similar to Stewart. Pitchers really praise him. He already has worked with our staff particularly the yo yo bullpen, most of whom have spent time in Indy. Neither of these guys will hit. Kratz has shown legit power in the past. At 36 he may have slowed down. I like the idea of promoting from within. That’s why I would have given Stallings first crack but would expect him to hit worse than Liriano, Neise and Cole – and maybe his dad too, who has a history of solid contact with his players

Luke S

I find no reason to think Stallings got much time, if any, with Locke-Nicasio-Niese-Liriano in any game action. Nor with most of the bullpen.

So really, i think its a coin flip. Stallings is younger, but also with 0 experience in the majors. Kratz is older and with more tread off the tires but still fine on defense and used to what is coming.

If you give me two guys pretty assured to hit like crap, i’d lean to one who at least has ML experience if you need 3-4 weeks of play.

kenneth s

I agree


Ugh. Didn’t need to hear that. Hopefully Cole’s injury is nothing serious.


Would’ve been Diaz’s opportunity really stinks


Wow, this stinks! Though Marte successfully came back from hamate surgery didn’t he?

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