BRISTOL, VA – The Bristol Pirates are playing a bit short-handed lately, losing a few of their highest draft picks and best performers in the last few weeks. They’ve seen fifth round pick Blake Cederlind, seventh round pick Brent Gibbs, and one of their top hitters Victor Fernandez go down with injuries recently. I talked with Bristol Manager Kory DeHaan about each injury this week, and when each player is expected back.
Gibbs Dealing With a Bruised Wrist
Brent Gibbs was the highest drafted catcher by the Pirates, going in the seventh round out of Central Arizona JC. As a result, he was getting more of the playing time behind the plate, up until he was hit in the wrist with a pitch on July 30th.
“It’s somewhere in the wrist area,” DeHaan said. “There was no visible fracture in the bone. But it’s a pretty deep bone bruise of some sort, and possibly hit some other cartilage in there.”
Right now, Gibbs can’t grip a bat, and can’t throw a baseball. He still catches bullpens, as the bone bruise is in his right hand. However, he needs a pitcher to help out getting the ball back to the other pitcher who is warming up, making the bullpen session a two-man job. This is all to avoid the possibility of hurting the wrist even more, and fracturing it.
“Kind of taking it easy,” Gibbs said. “Don’t want to push anything. Haven’t been throwing or hitting, just because only have a couple of weeks left, and that’s the last thing we want is to fracture it.”
Gibbs said that they haven’t discussed surgery at all, and that the hope is everything will clear up in a few weeks so that he can play during instructs. DeHaan said that they don’t expect him back the rest of the season, which ends for Bristol on September 1st.
This is a bit of a blow for Gibbs, who doesn’t have a lot of experience behind the plate. He went to Indiana University for two years, and didn’t get into a game, red shirting for one year. He transferred to Central Arizona, where he finally got some playing time. Gibbs was able to make up for the lack of time by playing in summer ball after his freshman year.
“I played in the Northwoods League,” Gibbs said. “That really helped, playing 70-something games after my freshman year. Going out to college, being in Arizona, the weather is awesome, so I took advantage of it and practiced everyday. I had coaches with me, and I told them what my goal was, and they said ‘Alright, let’s do it.’ So I really hit it pretty hard in the off-season, and it’s paying off.”
Despite the lack of experience, Gibbs got high praise for his arm and receiving skills, being rated Baseball America’s 194th best prospect in the draft. He carried that over to his pro debut.
“Defense was okay. Blocking was decent,” DeHaan said. “Some mechanical setups could probably be worked on a little bit. The energy behind the plate was good, too. The leadership, the energy is what I love. I didn’t have to keep prodding him on that side of stuff. When you have a guy who brings the energy himself, it’s a breath of fresh air for the manager.”
DeHaan did praise the arm, and also really liked how Gibbs worked with his new pitching staff.
“He’s intelligent,” DeHaan said. “He was learning the pitchers. He was building relationships with them. That’s a huge key, too, building that understanding, that connection.”
The big question with Gibbs is the offense. He did put up a .396/.497/.590 line this year, but that was in a very hitter friendly environment in Arizona. There are questions about whether he can make good, consistent contact. DeHaan said that he needs to avoid chasing the ball up or down in the zone too much.
“[There’s] still growth of learning how to utilize his lower half, and his swing,” DeHaan said. “When he would connect, he could drive balls. He’s got some, but it’s mostly on the pull side right now.”
Gibbs noted that getting regular at-bats was helping.
“I’m just working on getting more at-bats, because that’s helping me,” Gibbs said. “Right before I got hit in the hand, I was starting to pick up the bat a little bit. I think it’s just from seeing it everyday, and seeing the 90-plus [MPH] and seeing the good arms everyday. Just making hard contact is what I’m looking for.”
Prior to the injury, Gibbs went 7-for-16 with two doubles in his final five game stretch. The hope is that he can return for instructs, and pick up where he left off.
Cederlind Dealing With Forearm Tightness
Fifth round right-handed pitcher Blake Cederlind isn’t currently with the team, and is down in Bradenton after going out with forearm tightness. He was feeling it after his final outing on July 23rd, when he threw five shutout innings, with four hits, one walk, and four strikeouts. He tried making his next start, but said that he couldn’t get loose when warming up. As a result, he was shut down, and isn’t expected back for the year.
There were reports out of the draft that Cederlind was reaching 97, but had control issues. He lived up to the report in Bristol, and because of that big arm, the Pirates want to be cautious.
“He’s got a live arm. It was up to 96, 97,” DeHaan said. “It’s a bigger arm, and with the development of him building confidence in what he’s got — it’s a little of a spray sometimes right now, but at least it’s there. There’s no need to rush him back into competition right now, when we’ve got a great instructional league and all off-season to work on stuff. We’ll most likely be cautious in getting him back.”
I might have a further update on Cederlind when I return to Bradenton, discussing how his season went, although I don’t expect his status to change.
Fernandez Day to Day
Victor Fernandez has been one of the best hitters for Bristol this year, with an .834 OPS on the season. He went down on Friday with a minor leg injury after going 2-for-2. DeHaan noticed him limping around in the outfield, and pulled him from the game. Fernandez has tried to return the last few days, but hasn’t been cleared, as he wasn’t swinging like he was before.
The hope was that he would return yesterday, although he had a limp, and was pushed back another day. He might return tonight, although if he doesn’t, he should be back soon.
“I’d love to have his bat in the lineup right now, with him going pretty good,” DeHaan said.