Pirates Notes: A Look at Rick Sofield’s Decision Process at 3B, and Injury Updates

PITTSBURGH — Rick Sofield has a simple mission as the Pirates’ third base coach: Score as many runs as possible. But that mission comes with an important caveat: Don’t be out.

It’s hard work making sure that the Pirates maximize potential run-scoring opportunities, and I’m not even talking about the physical antics that have made Sofield the frequent subject of viral videos.

But the real work — which mostly happens off the field — starts with the information that Sofield gets from the advance scouts and his own knowledge accumulated through years and years of baseball experience.

“There’s information I have about how well guys throw and how athletic guys are in the opposing outfield,” Sofield said. “There are some guys we push and challenge more than other guys. Leonys Martin in center has a 70 arm — a big-time thrower. Cruz throws the ball well, but he’s slower to get to the ball. Everyone has characteristics about them in the outfield and I’m very familiar with what each guy does well and doesn’t do well.”

From there, he lets the score of the game be his guide.

“With the lead, we’re more aggressive than without the lead,” he said. “Late in a game, the more we’re behind, the more conservative we become, because we need more than one run. When we’re down by three or four, there’s going to be less aggression, especially with no one out, because we have something going. I can’t squelch it by getting someone thrown out at home plate on a [questionable decision].”

Sofield is obviously the final decision-maker, but added that manager Clint Hurdle never provides in-game input or changes. The plans that they have formed through the years are the plans that get executed.

For example, with Francisco Cervelli on third base against the Seattle Mariners Tuesday night, Jordy Mercer hit a fly ball to Martin in center. With the Pirates trailing by three, Sofield knew the Pirates needed more than just Cervelli to score to make an impact on the game. So with an average runner on third, Sofield made the split-second decision to keep him in his pocket. The move backfired in that case, as Cervelli was stranded on third. Obviously, he’s not going to be 100 percent successful.

One thing that has helped him, he said, has been moving his position farther down the baseline.

“I have more time to make a decision to make his stop or go,” he said.


Pitcher Tyler Glasnow (right shoulder) is dealing with some inflammation in his shoulder, but is expected to begin throwing off flat ground in the next day or two. Trainer Todd Tomczyk suggested that things are looking towards a quick return for Glasnow, but that he wouldn’t have a timeframe until he begins to throw.

Catcher Chris Stewart (left knee) is expected to catch before a game in Milwaukee this weekend, and if all goes well, he could start a rehab stint next week.

Pitcher Chad Kuhl (right triceps) is already playing catch on flat ground and will throw a bullpen session in the upcoming days.

Tomcyzk said third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes’ back injury is muscle-related and he has been able to continue working out.

  • joebaseball
    July 28, 2016 7:03 am

    Bad base running, they don’t seem to pick up the ball well while running the bases. Who in the minors should be teaching them this skill of observation? Is Clint holding them responsible when they mess up at the MLB level?

  • Trade Melancon! Fire Huntington! Sell low on Liriano! Dump Jaso!

    Wait, what? They WON tonight? Still 2 1/2 back?

    Never mind, then. (But seriously, still dump Jaso. Seriously.)

  • Disappointed to hear that it was Sofield’s decision to hold Cervelli. If it had been in the 9th, then he’s correct in holding him (he made a huge blunder last year when he sent a runner in the 9th when down more than 1 and the runner was thrown out). Evidently he learned the wrong lesson! In the 8th that run is worth more of a risk because it decreases the need in the 9th, and there really wasn’t any risk when the throw went to 3rd (which a good coach should be able to read soon enough to allow the runner to score–if a runner has even a small lead after tagging up it doesn’t seem possible that he could be caught at home once the CF makes the throw towards 3rd).

    I’m generally supportive of the coaching staff, but I think Sofield is really bad at making those snap decisions.

    • The more conservative we become late in the game…… That is a horribly dumb general explanation. Per the situation last night, you should be aggressive in the 8th. Plus, Seattle did not want the runner on 2nd to go 3rd with one out, so they were going to concede the run and throw to third. Duh Sofield, know the situation you are in.

  • Another Home Run from our clean-up hitter Big Al Saunders!

  • piraterican21
    July 27, 2016 5:59 pm

    Seems like best case scenario for all insured.