Pirates Notes: Preparing For Felix Hernandez and Why Josh Bell Isn’t in Pittsburgh

PITTSBURGH — The Pirates are hosting the Seattle Mariners for a two-game mid-week series. The Mariners, members of the American League since their inception in 1977, aren’t exactly a familiar foe. They’ve been to Pittsburgh just twice: a two-game set in 2013 and three games in 2004.

“I think it keeps things fresh from my perspective,” manager Clint Hurdle said.

But while the Pirates aren’t particularly familiar with the Mariners as a whole, they’ve seen enough of ace Felix Hernandez, Tuesday night’s starter.

“We’re going to fave their two best in Felix and [Wednesday’s starter James Paxton],” Hurdle said.

“He’s really good,” shortstop Jordy Mercer said of Hernandez, who Mercer is 1 for 3 against in his career. “He’s been good for a long time. He mixes pitches well. He keeps you off-balance and can throw any pitch in any count. He’s a competitor. He gives his team a chance to win. We have to play our game and put pressure on him on the bases, and hopefully we can scratch a few runs against him.”

Mercer added that the chance to play one of the top pitchers in the game that the Pirates don’t see that often is an exciting one.

“It’s just different because you don’t face him a bunch. The guys in the division, the aces that we’ve faced in the past month or so, we’ve faced them a few times, so we kind of know what they have and what their approach is. When you face a guy on the other side — the American League — one of their top guys, you just have to watch film and study. You can bring up some of your previous at-bats against him and kind of go from there.”

That lack of familiarity has meant a bit of added homework for the Pirates.

“Yeah, gust watching a little bit more film on their pitchers,” Mercer said. “Especially their bullpen, I think their bullpen has a few guys we’re not as familiar with and Paxton, I don’t know if anyone has faced him.”

That rings true for the pitching staff as well, who take a similar, video-heavy approach, and Jared Hughes was quick to credit the work of the team’s advance scouts.

“We may never see them, but our advance scouts see them a lot,” Hughes said. “We have scouting reports on the Mariners. When we went to play them in Seattle last month, we knew their team extremely well because of our advance scouting reports. We’ll go over them today and that’s what we’ll rely on.”

For Hughes, who has an unusually long track record as a reliever with one club, the chance to pitch against some batters that don’t have much experience against him is a unique one.

“Against the Mariners, I don’t have much experience,” he said. “I have to go look at what other pitchers like me have done. If they’re not doing their homework on us, they won’t be as prepared, but this is the major leagues. You have to assume everyone is doing their homework.”

RINGING FOR BELL

Hurdle was asked about what Josh Bell would need to do in Triple-A to force management’s hand about a call-up. He said it comes down to Bell versus John Jaso on defense, and on that front, Hurdle would need to see “a very good report from our guys that are watching him every day in Triple-A.”

“Gary Green is a rover and he spends time watching us here defensively, he watches our men defensively in the minor leagues, so he has a comparative lens that he can use,” Hurdle added. “[Indianapolis manager Dean Treanor] did so much work with Jaso on the back fields in Spring Training. He’s well aware of the progress that was made there. That same kind of program is in place with Josh. With the continued improvement along those lines, I think he’s headed in the right direction, but I can’t put a timeline on it.”

But the bottom line, is that right now, Hurdle isn’t hearing those things from his men in Indy.

“That he’s a better defender than Jaso? No, he’s not right now.”

PITCHING PLANS

The Pirates will need a spot starter for Friday against the Milwaukee Brewers. Jameson Taillon and Francisco Liriano will pitch the second and third games of that series. Jeff Locke is apparently not an option for that start, as Hurdle announced that he will stay in the bullpen at least through the weekend.

Wilfredo Boscan is the scheduled starter for Triple-A Indianapolis on Friday. Steven Brault was scheduled to pitch Wednesday, but he will be bumped by Ryan Vogelsong, who will make a seven-inning or 95-pitch rehab start instead. Frank Duncan is expected to pitch Thursday. Brault and Boscan have each started one game in Pittsburgh this season.

UP TO SPEED

Catcher Chris Stewart worked out on the field before the game, getting into his equipment and taking a few throws while also doing so aggressive running. Stewart joked that he’s just as slow as he was pre-injury and that the big test will be catching a full game. No time frame for that to happen has been established yet.

PROSPECT WATCH

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PIRATES DISCUSSION

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Bill Harvey

In regards to Bell, NH has said all along that he would like to get him 500+ AB’S at Indy, so I am not surprised that he is still there. What I am surprised about is that he is getting time away from 1B. There is no need for that, if he needs to work on defense at first, he needs to play first. Hard to learn 1B in RF.

Which bring me to my main bitch about this entire front office. Why don’t they draft players and teach them a Position? Why do they need to learn3, 4 or even 5 Positions? Teach Bell to play first, and let him hit. Teach someone to play SS, what do you need 5 guys that can play 5 Positions?

Douglas Byrd

This is a good point. If his main problem is fielding at 1B, then why have him take time in the OF? I don’t understand this especially considering the ton of outfield talent in Pittsburgh (Joyce, S-Rod and Frazier all back up 3 great players). Bell will not get many innings in the OF, especially if he can’t even get a single inning at 1B. It’s bizarre.

indybucfan

If Jaso is so good at first, why does he come out after 7 innings when they have a lead?

#FREEBELL

tmcgowan

What is A.J. Burnett doing after his kids go back to school in mid August?

bucsws2014

If Bucs lose to Seattle and Paxton tomorrow, that’s a 4-4 homestand when 6-2 was pretty much expected.

As I was at the game tonight, I’m not sure if the boos and catcalls following each futile Cutch AB were coming through the TV, but they were getting louder with each AB.

piraddict

Sorry to hear of that! Cutch has been lousy this year, but booing him when he is down just lacks class.

michael t

To be direct about Cutch, his lonely man sulking on the bench, self protective behavior on the bases, and poor play in the outfield are contributing to the booing. Pirate fans are sophisticated. If you are struggling at the plate why not at least hustle in the other areas?

bucsws2014

I take a very black & white view on booing the home team. Either you do or you don’t.

If someone is stinking up the place, doesn’t matter if it’s Liriano, Locke, Niese, Jaso or Cutch. If someone feels it’s OK to boo one but not the other, that would be arbitrary and hypocritical.

Brian DeLeo

Jaso has been horrendous at the plate. Does hurdle honestly believe that Bell’s slight inferiority in the field is worth that much at the plate? I don’t think he does. He’s buying time for NH who’s saving face for the signing

scbucsfan

Or buying time and talking up Jaso so they can trade him. Can’t see how he would have much value in a trade though. Maybe trying to get the team low enough that the fans won’t flip if they trade off assets this deadline.

michael t

With Kang, Jaso and Cutch scuffling it is flat out wrong to pin Bell at Indianapolis. Are they trying to showcase Jaso for a trade? Bell is a beast and a future star. The bat improves the team immediately and Jaso’s performance does not justify the infatuation Neal and Clint have for him. All we heard offseason was how they loved the bat and Jaso could learn the position quickly. By all measurements Jaso’s bat is a big disappointment and he is having one of his worst years. So they seize on the fact that he is better than expected at first …..but still replace him for defensive purposes.

billy921

Save all these complaints for after the Trading deadline. One more week then see what Neil does with the rookies.

michael schalke

Neil is probably coming to the conclusion tonight that the pitching is just not there this year to make a run. Unfortunately, part of that problem is his own doing but I’m pretty sure you’ll see the kids playing much more after the deadline.

PikeBishop65

I don’t care what other moves they make at the deadline, but trade Liriano for a bag of balls! Score four runs against King Felix and he decides to throw batting practice! Game was over when it was 7-4! 13.5 million for this POS! I don’t ever want to seem him on the mound in a Pirate uniform again!

William R. Maloni Sr

What management BS, Bell’s bat overcomes Jaso’s not so phenomenal fielding.

The’ll use any excuse or explanation to support decision that they think fans can’t/won’t support.

For heaven’s sake, Jaso’s hitting around .220 with no power, plus his hair is funny looking. What keeps him in a lineup which needs some “ooomph?”

I wonder what a real GM and owner would do with the PBC assets and fans?

Hopefully, they would be treated better than what BN and NH have shoveled up.

Catch22

Alex Dickerson has been crushing it….Another bomb tonight, .551 slugging % now.

BuccosFanStuckinMD

Yeah, that was an ill-advised and bizarre trade – which I said it was the day that trade was made, and was promptly ridiculed by many on this site. We traded a pretty good hitting first baseman, which we had very few competent ones in the system, for a former first round pick and outfielder (Jaff Decker) who couldn’t crack the abysmal Padres outfield in his 4-5 years in that organization. We had no need for another outfielder. Another one of Neal’s genius moves.
Its taken him 2-3 years, fighting through injuries, etc. but its nice to see Dickerson finally getting a chance to play in the majors. He could have been a decent short-term bridge to Bell….instead, we went through the likes of Ike Davis, Morneau, Jaso, etc.

michael t

Dickerson did seem to have a much better talent upside at the time, and the injuries held him back. This was the period when Neal was accumulating the stalled first round picks of other teams and thinking Pirate pixy dust would unleash the supposed draft position talent. I always thought Decker looked like a frontier league star.

BuccosFanStuckinMD

Neal still thinks that is the case.

Catch22

Dickerson would have no place on this team…He just got called up recently by SD and you would rather have Bell.

BuccosFanStuckinMD

You don’t know that and still doesn’t justify trading a third round pick who hit well at every level for a marginal talent like Jaff Decker….it was a dumb trade the second it was made.

Catch22

I agree, it was a dumb trade.

Stephen Brooks

You can debate Josh Bell, Jon Niese, Jeff Locke and the front office all day long. But easily the greatest damage done to this season has been inflicted by Francisco Liriano and Andrew McCutchen. 6+ wins just disappeared from last year. This game is just a microcosm.

michael schalke

I totally agree Stephen. These two have failed miserably so far this year.

BuccosFanStuckinMD

Liriano and McCutchen down season are certainly part of the problem, but don’t be too quick to let the FO off the hook – they’ve butchered this season. I think we have the most overrated GM in baseball…

Stephen Brooks

You should get out more and see what other fan bases have to deal with. Huntington is comfortably among the upper half in GMs, and given the market size and budget he has to work with, he’s done an excellent job.

I’m not saying he doesn’t deserve criticism. But if you’re going to criticize him for the pitching, you have to give him props for upgrading the hitting.

He brought in Freese, Joyce and Jaso to replace Walker, Alvarez and the crapshow that appeared at 4th OF role last season (Ishikawa, Decker, Tabata, Snider, Lambo). That’s a 2-win improvement. He re-signed Rodriguez, another 2 wins. So he’s up 4 wins on offense.

He brought in Niese, Nicasio, Vogelsong and Feliz to essentially replace Burnett, Worley, Morton and Bastardo, and that’s a net loss of 4 WAR.

So he’s basically even for the offseason. Hardly botched.

The reason the team as a whole is worse than it was last season is the guys who were on the team in 2015 and went south. Cutch by himself is 2.4 wins worse. Liriano is 2.5 worse. Cole and Locke are a win apiece worse off. Hughes and Caminero, a win between them. If these guys come close to their 2015 performances, the Pirates are sitting in the first wildcard spot, spitting distance from the Cubs.

Catch22

Yet, you want them to play nothing but rookies, all drafted by the most overrated GM in baseball.

BuccosFanStuckinMD

I would not give Neal all of the credit (or blame) for all of the draft picks – they do have a scouting department. The team has drafted well at times, and made some serious blunders at times as well. My beef is the little that Neal uses his own prospects….look at the Cubs, Astros, Mets, etc – all having success yet playing a lot of home grown young players….radical concept.

Catch22

Who hired these scouts?

BuccosFanStuckinMD

Yeah drafted by Neal, and then wasted…..the Pirates have the most under-utilized farm system in major league baseball….

Catch22

What would your lineup and rotation look like?

Catch22

Again, what would your lineup and rotation look like? I’m honestly just curious….

gosteelers69

If the Pirates are going to be buyers, they’ll need to give up more than we have seen in recent years to acquire pitching. This team needs a lot of pitching. A lot!! I honestly don’t see how they can fix this team this year. We could still make the Wild-Card, but it’ll likely be over quickly. You simply don’t win a championship when your star hitter can’t hit and your starting rotation is horrendous. Everyone on this forum understands that.

joel

I don’t even believe Hurdle said that about Bell, sounds just like NH. NH likes Jaso and there is no room for Bell in the OF or 1st. Smells like a trade to me, other minor leaguers that may be traded include A. Hanson, H. Ramirez, and E. Diaz again no room. I would keep Diaz and trade Stewart.

dr dng

My guess they send Stewart to Indy for 30 days of rehab starting August 2.
He comes back to Pittsburgh on September 1 or 2. We have 4 catchers
available for September and through the off season to sort out and
make the best decision possible for next year.

(Hopefully I have this rehab rule correct.)

Tim Williams

Position players are limited to 20 days.

dr dng

Tim, how do you see the catching situation playing out?

Tim Williams

I’d hope they’d hold Stewart back from rehab long enough that they could keep Fryer in September.

ajax2448

At this point with Diaz now healthy they probably just DFA Fryer and hope he makes it through. If he doesn’t they just buy a depth catcher from another team on or before September 1st.

BuccosFanStuckinMD

When it comes to the excuses as to why Jaso is still starting everyday, and Bell is in Indy, the Pirates story line is just a bunch of crap. This FO has so screwed up this season from the get go, they can’t even get out of their own way. Bell and Diaz back in Indy – we keep Jaso and Fryer in Pittsburgh. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Only in Neal’s mind does that make any sense….

BuccosFanStuckinMD

After tonight, I am officially done with Liriano and his mind-numbing up and own roller-coaster like performance this year….he is gifted with a 4-1 lead against Hernandez, and he can’t hold it – not even for 2 innings. If they can get anything for him, I hope the Pirates trade him out of here – he’s just blocking a young pitcher now.

Catch22

What would your rotation and lineup look like? I’m just curious…

BuccosFanStuckinMD

Well, the season is over now…so it really doesn’t matter. If they had brought up Taillon, Glasnow, Kuhl, Bell, Frazier in early June, instead of sending out Niese and Locke over and over again, we’d be no more than 3-5 games behind the Cubs. With Glasnow and Kuhl now hurt, the options are slim – Cole, Taillon, and the three bums – Locke, Liriano, and Niese. Brault was impressive in his one start in Pittsburgh, so he could come up and grab a spot in the rotation. What do the Pirates have to lose? If and when Glasnow and Kuhl return this year, they take two spots.
As for lineup, Frazier should be starting 3-4 games a week – playing third or second – maybe even a spot start at SS here and there. He’s a sparkplug – he has speed and can run. . .Bell should be starting at first base, with Jaso on the bench. Diaz should be up, platooning with Cervelli. Fryer and Stewart can be DFA’d or traded (but no one would want either of them)….

Catch22

Taillon was up after Super 2, Frazier is up and he is getting starts and contributing, Kuhl has been getting starts. I do agree with Bell, but Glasnow is nowhere near ready and you saw that in his last start. I could go with Diaz as the back-up C, but I wouldn’t platoon him with Cervelli.

BuccosFanStuckinMD

It may have been coincidence, but Cervelli’s play went off the cliff right around the time the Pirates extended him. He head a great year at the plate last year, but I don’t know if he will ever come close to that again. He cannot throw any runners out, which is his big weakness. Diaz can be a game changer, just with his defense and arm. Sadly, he will likely never get a chance in Pittsburgh. They should have traded him and Hansen two years ago, when their values were at their peak – because the team had completely blocked both of them. Now, their values have dropped dramatically.

Catch22

Cervelli has been playing well since he came back from the DL. Diaz still has plenty of value, Hanson doesn’t because he can’t hit or get OB in the upper levels….The only person blocking Alen Hanson is Alen Hanson.

BuccosFanStuckinMD

Glasnow was hurt – so, you cannot say his last start was due to not being ready. He totally dominated AAA and at his worse he was better than Niese or Locke. yeah, Taiilon, Kuhl, Frazier, etc. did eventually get called up, but it was month too late.
The biggest shame of all is that the Cubs are ripe for the taking – they have been playing .500 ball since mid May – and the Pirates squandered the opportunity by sticking with mediocre pitchers in the rotation for 3-4 months, before deciding changes were necessary. The team was on fire right before the all star break, and the FO snuffed all that energy out – by again, sending Locke and Niese out and costing the team two more games.

Brian Z

#freejoshbell
I saw Jaso drop a ball thrown to him the other day, can hardly ever snag a ball down the line… Where’s the good defense they keep talking about? I’d say he’s adequate on defense and sub par on offense. I bet he goes 1 for 4 with 2 weak grounders to second and 1 pop up to first tonight

Arik Florimonte

WRT Mercer’s comment, “He’s been good for a long time.” Not exactly true, since he hasn’t been good this year. His FIP and xFIP this season are both at career highs.

Sure hoping the Bucs don’t make him look like the old King Felix tonight.

Matthew R

Probably worth mentioning that King Felix has been hurt and hasn’t had a quality start in 2 months. Some cause for optimism there.

BuccosFanStuckinMD

Yeah, but Liriano is pitching….there goes the optimism…

Ken

Not only hasn’t he had a quality start in two months, he’s only had one MLB start in total.

leefoo

Re: Bell………..Hurdle is full of stale bubble gum.

Catch22

He’s just being a company man.

Blaine Huff

Ladies and gentlemen…let me introduce to you: John Jaso…or, as the Pirates like to call him…”Keith Hernandez Jr.”

I mean, really…I appreciate the inclusion…and I have no problem with it…but the source of the material is full of it. Bell may not be stud fielding material, but neither is Jaso. JJ is an adequate fielder who still gets pulled late in games and I don’t know that, defensively, Bell would be a huge, or even, a minor downgrade.

And, if Bell needs to improve defensively, why the hell is he being run out there to the OF?

piraddict

My guess is that the Pirates are considering that the value today of Bell’s value as a full time 1B in his 6th year hitting 35 HR and 120 rbi is greater than the present day value of his differential net up grade above Jaso. When you adopt a “we want to compete every year” mentality the effective discount rate on talent is zero. Full value six years from now is way more valuable than the upgrade Bell would provide above Jaso today. They can’t actually say that though or today’s fans would have a fit.

Blaine Huff

He will never get to that sixth year if he doesn’t start the first.

piraddict

He’ll start his clock next year, no doubt about it.

Blaine Huff

Well…yes…but when…if he’s not back this season, do they hold him until mid-June to get the extra season? I am all for maximizing control, but, sooner of later, you actually have to take the pretty toys off the shelf and play with them.

Catch22

That’s not the extra season, that’s Super-2 to avoid that last year of arb., that’s part of the reason why Walker is no longer here….I think to get that extra year, they have to be down for 11 days. Cubs waited the extra 11 days last year with Bryant in order to get the extra year of control.

Blaine Huff

Bah…you are right…and I’ve corrected a 1,000 people on the very same thing this year…my face is totally red right now. Damned beer!

Considering the time he has this season…and saying there won’t be a September call up…you’d be looking at mid-April.

If if he is called up in September, mid-May.

But, how much longer are the Pirates going to drag their feet on a premier prospect who is, obviously, ready?

Michael Sanders

We like to call it playing deep at first base.

leefoo

My feeling is that Bell surely can out hit Jaso, so will that make up the difference?

JJ has compromising pix, methinks.

Blaine Huff

I like to think I don’t buy into prospect hype…well, not too much, anyway.

And I don’t consider Bell’s audition as an indicator of what his usual performance will be…

That said, I think Bell’s hitting floor is a lot higher than Jaso’s ceiling and that, defensively, the gap isn’t as great as that.

Parrothead01

Since Frazier is starting tonight, why not lead him off instead of Jaso.

DanielF

Usually I’d agree but Jaso is great against Felix and has caught for him in the past.

emjayinTN

I think that CH may have the right idea – keep the 33 year old because his defense may be better. If that is the case, please set these kids free – if not for the Pirates, then with some other team that can be saddled with that horrible defensive issue. There may be 29 other teams that would want that problem.

Y2JGQ2

stupid- *concerning Bell* They don’t think that Bell’s offensive abilities are more of a plus than his defense is at a minus i guess as it compares to Jaso- personally i think its wrong

rburgh

What they’re really saying is, “If we bring Josh Bell up, we won’t be able to trade Jaso for squat.”

joel

You will be shocked at the return on Jaso if they trade him but not me. Remember the Walker trade, that did not surprise me at all. The Pirates could not even get a prospect for Pedro.

ajax2448

There was no way that they were going to get anything for Pedro. Are you surprised no team wanted to give up a prospect for a 10 million dollar player who had the worst defensive season of any major league first baseman? The Walker trade looked like a fair deal on paper. It isn’t like Neil Walker has lit the world on fire he is actually having the worst season of his career. Since April ended he has been one of the worst regulars in the MLB

joel

I knew Pedro and Walker had little trade value and you can add Jaso and Mercer to that list. Mercer would be a good backup SS but is no regular. Walker was a little better hitter than Mercer with more power.

Parrothead01

I agree. I am tired of the weak pop ups and ground balls Jaso hits so frequently. Schwerber wasn’t a good fielder last year, but the Cubs found a way to let the bat play.

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