PITTSBURGH — Throughout his minor-league career, Jose Osuna hasn’t had much of a platoon split.
If anything, the right-handed hitter was usually slightly better against left-handers, but there was never a huge difference one way or the other. This season in Triple-A with Indianapolis, he got on a hot streak against righties. His OPS was .862 against righties and .382 against lefties.
That’s carried over into the majors so far. He has an .833 OPS against right-handers and a .747 OPS against left-handers. But most of his opportunities to start have come against left-handed pitchers, like when he went 2-for-4 with two RBIs on Wednesday.
“It’s a small sample size,” manager Clint Hurdle. “That probably isn’t the best advantage for our roster to play out, to have him only hit against right-handed pitching. You mix it up.”
What Hurdle is referring to is that Gregory Polanco has struggled against lefties and Osuna is the best option to spell him in right. There are some other places for him to get some action, but the Pirates like what Josh Bell has done from both sides of the plate at first base and Osuna isn’t a great fit for left field.
“You’ve got guys out there, so we’re looking to find the best strategic match-up,” Hurdle said. “We’ve asked him to stretch a little bit in the outfield. He’s played some games in left field here. There’s a lot of ground to cover. I just think he needs to continue to play. I believe in the man in the box. As the years move on or the situations change over the course of the year, who knows what opportunities could present themselves for extended playing time or more consistent playing time.”
In the meantime, Osuna feels like he’s finally mastered the routine required to be a good part-time player. He often takes early extra fielding work and then heads to the tunnel for the early innings when he’s not starting.
“I made a routine,” he said. “The first couple weeks, it was a little bit hard. This is something new for me. But after that, I made a good routine. Now, I’m getting ready later in the games. I’m just trying to take a good pitch and having a good routine before the game: watch a couple videos, take some turns (at the cage). That’s helping me with the success I’ve had the last couple weeks.”
Osuna said he doesn’t care whether he plays against lefties or righties, starts or comes off the bench, as long as he can help the team.
“I’m just trying to go up there and pick a good pitch to hit,” he said. “That’s the only thing that I can control.”
Hurdle seemed pleased with the progress Osuna has made and acknowledged that where his next steps will be is largely out of his hands.
“He needs to continue to work and get experience and the only way he can get experience is when I get him in the lineup,” Hurdle said. “That’s out of his control.”
David Freese was given the night off. The 34-year-old has already played in 59 of the team’s 79 games this season. Hurdle feels that Freese might do better if he wasn’t worked as hard going forward.
“I believe I’ve played David too much. I believe I needed to get David a break,” Hurdle said. “I haven’t managed it as well as I should have. He wants to play every day. At this point in time in his career, I think to get the best player we get out there, we need to be a little bit more regimented with the playing time, because players, if you ask them to play, they’re going to play. That’s how they’re built.”
Hurdle did not know if Felipe Rivero or Juan Nicasio will be available. Both have pitched on consecutive nights. Catcher Francisco Cervelli (post-concussion symptoms) ran and threw before the game.