PITTSBURGH — For the vast majority of the time since Starling Marte was suspended in mid-April, the Pirates have relied on utility players to pick up the missing innings, with Adam Frazier, John Jaso and Jose Osuna getting the bulk of the time.
But when Gregory Polanco was placed on the 10-day disabled list Wednesday with a left hamstring strain, the team decided to go a different route when it comes to outfield depth by recalling Danny Ortiz.
Jaso and Osuna are converted first baseman and have a strong hitting pedigree as a result. Frazier has hit wherever he’s played in a true super-utility role. Danny Ortiz is the exact opposite of that. A natural center fielder, he can play all three outfield positions, and has played them well.
“He plays good defense,” Hurdle said first when describing what Ortiz will bring to the team. “He’s a good defender and a very dependable defender in the outfield. … We’ve got one outfielder (Andrew McCutchen) that’s played a large volume of games in the outfield. There could very well be a need for a defensive replacement late in a game.”
Ortiz said he’s comfortable at all three spots and the Pirates had been shifting him around the outfield in Indianapolis so that he’d be ready to come up and help at any spot.
“They had me shifting positions every two days,” Ortiz said through translator Mike Gonzalez. “I feel very comfortable at all three positions. However, I did grow up playing center field. That’s always been my main position, but I feel very comfortable playing any position. Outfield to me, it’s one of my passions. I love playing defense. I love the excitement of the outfield and being able show off my arm, glove and speed.”
That’s quite a bit of a change in direction from the other options that Hurdle has to play in the outfield and it may signify that the team wants to take steps to correct its -12 Defensive Runs Saves figure — second-worst in the National League.
It’s not the first time this season Ortiz has been up. He made his MLB debut April 29 and played three innings of defense in right field, but he was returned the next day as an injury to Francisco Cervelli created a catching emergency.
“I’m excited to be back here, help my team out, help them produce, help any way that I can and now I have a better understanding of what to expect,” Ortiz said.
Jaso, meanwhile, made some waves with a play in the outfield on Tuesday. His diving catch of a Anthony Rendon line drive in the ninth inning was rated as a five-star catch by MLB’s Statcast, with Jaso covering 47 feet in 3.2 seconds. The Statcast software gave Jaso just a 7 percent chance to make the catch.
Catch probability? SEVEN PERCENT!
— #Statcast (@statcast) May 17, 2017
Hurdle said he was glad to see Jaso get some credit for his continuing hard work in right field. For his part, Jaso said, “I was just glad I didn’t have to chase it.”
Gerrit Cole vs Jacob Turner
— Alan Saunders (@ASaunders_PGH) May 17, 2017
Josh Harrison was given the day off with day game scheduled for Thursday. … Washington starter Jacob Turner will be making a spot start and has started just one game all season, possibly giving the Pirates a chance to take advantage of the National League’s second-worst bullpen. … RHP Felipe Rivero (sore neck) is available.