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.
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.