Monday was a busy day for players rehabbing in Extended Spring Training at Pirate City, with good news for some of the top prospects down there and some bad news for other players.
Nick Kingham continues his return from his Spring Training ankle injury that shut him down for a brief time late in March. He needed to start the process over of building up his innings, so the first time he returned to the mound, he pitched just one inning. On Monday he pitched four innings against the Braves and was sitting 91-94 MPH. He should make at least one more start down at Pirate City before he makes his regular season debut. It’s possible his return will come with Bradenton first before he finally joins Indianapolis. Andrew Potter, Brian Sousa and Jacob Taylor also pitched on Monday.
The action on Monday included four players in their first game back from injury. The two big names were Jin-De Jhang and Barrett Barnes. Jhang suffered an oblique injury early in Spring Training and has just been catching bullpens and hitting in the cages up until now. Barnes has been out with a hamstring injury that happened during his last Spring Training at-bat for the Pirates before he was reassigned to minor league camp. Jhang caught Kingham’s outing, while Barnes was the DH. Both players collected hits in the game.
The usual rehab process in one day playing, one day off for five innings, upgrading that to seven innings, until you eventually get to playing full games on back-to-back days before moving up to a higher level.
A player named Starling Marte also saw his first game action since reporting to Pirate City. He had one hit and played center field. Marte isn’t eligible to return to the Pirates until July 18th.
First basemen Jordan George and Albert Baur each returned to action as well for the first time. Both have been out since the first week of the season. George was hitting well for Bradenton at the time of his injury, while Baur was with West Virginia. Victor Fernandez, who was the other West Virginia player injured in the first week, is down at Pirate City, but not ready for games yet.
Brandon Cumpton, returning from Tommy John surgery and shoulder surgery, pitched a sim game last week. Next step after sim games are real games. I don’t have a recent update on Casey Sadler because he was absent from camp for a few days on paternity leave. He and his wife had a child a little more than a week ago, so I’m guessing his sleep schedule is sporadic at this time.
Shortstop Adrian Valerio is still recovering from his broken hand and hasn’t played any games yet. He is taking grounders and hitting in the cages, so it shouldn’t be too long until he returns to action. Scooter Hightower has been out with an oblique injury suffered early in spring. He is now throwing bullpens.
Junior Lopez saw his 25-game suspension end on Monday night, which was the 25th game of the season for Bradenton. Lopez has been at Pirate City the entire time, but he hasn’t been throwing recently, so he probably won’t return to action right away.
On the bad news side, outfielder Eddy Vizcaino broke his ankle on a slide yesterday. He was a late addition to the Extended Spring Training roster, coming over to the U.S. after two seasons in the DSL. Leg injuries have been a major issue recently down at Pirate City, but at least this time it wasn’t a catcher. Brent Gibbs, the seventh round pick in 2016, is out with a knee injury. Raul Hernandez, who spent time with Bradenton last year, is out with a hamstring injury, and GCL catcher Mikell Granberry suffered an ankle injury over the weekend.
Three pitchers were released today, two who never even pitched a regular season game for the Pirates. Lefty Greg Williams, and right-handers Holden Helmink and Julian Villamar were all released. All three players are considered hard-throwers, but Williams was having trouble with consistency this spring, while the other two had control issues. Williams hit 97 MPH this off-season and 95 recently in camp, but he has also sat 90-91 at times (including an inning with the Pirates this spring) and fallen into the mid-80s during some appearances. Villamar pitched two seasons in the DSL and last year in the GCL.
If you missed it from yesterday, the big news was that the Pirates had their first Tommy John surgery since last April. John Pomeroy, the 13th round pick from 2016 who hit 98 MPH in the Fall Instructional League, will be out until mid-season next year. Also in yesterday’s article was an update on Adam Oller, last year’s 20th round pick, who hasn’t been on the mound yet due to a shoulder impingement.