PITTSBURGH — The Pirates will get right-handed reliever George Kontos back for the remainder of the 2017 season, as he was activated from the 10-day disabled list and is available to pitch Thursday night against the Chicago Cubs.
Kontos has recovered from his right groin strain and seems to be eager to get right back into the fray pitching-wise despite the position of his team in the standings.
“Its always tough being on the DL,” Kontos said Thursday. “This is only the second time my career I’ve been on the DL while I’ve been in the big leagues. I’m just looking forward to getting back out there and helping the team.”
In fact, the move from San Francisco to Pittsburgh has come with an opportunity for more high-leverage innings for Kontos, and he feels that September can provide a head start on the battle for an eighth-inning spot in 2018.
“I’ve always felt that I’ve been capable of handing a role that was later in the game,” he said. “The fact that I was brought over here and I’m pitching the seventh and eighth inning in tight ball games, I’ve just thanked them. It’s always great when your pitching coach and your manager have confidence in you that you can go out there and do the job in later innings.”
In his career, Kontos has appeared in the seventh inning the most at 126 games. He’s pitched 91 times in the eighth inning, 83 times in the sixth inning, 39 times in the ninth inning and 37 times in the fifth inning.
“He’s a guy that works through the middle of a lineup,” Hurdle said. “He’s got a cutter for some left-handers. He’s got a slider that’s been his go-to pitch for years. He’s got a changeup that we really liked seeing him throw in the bullpen that maybe we can get him to throw a little bit more.”
The Pirates have said that they like to give pitchers that are new to the organization some time to show first-hand what they can do before the team tries to make many changes, so that’s the process they hope plays out these final few weeks.
“We’d really like to get him in the fold so we can watch him for a little period of time,” Hurdle said. “Hopefully, we’ll put an eye on him for three weeks. He’ll definitely help us out back there.”
Hurdle said the club anticipates activating Adam Frazier and Gregory Polanco from the disabled list on Thursday as the team travels to St. Louis.
ROOM FOR LUPLOW
The return of Frazier and Polanco might limit the playing time going forward for Jordan Luplow, who has done well recently in right field. But Hurdle seems committed to getting him opportunities, regardless of the other options he has. Andrew McCutchen will get an off day on Thursday, with Starling Marte moving to center and Luplow playing left.
“We’re probably not going to extend playing time with Adam or Gregory right now,” Hurdle said. “It’s probably going to be a game in, a game out, a couple games out.”
One of the places the Pirates don’t seem to intend to revisit it trying Luplow at third base. He played third for a season in Single-A in 2015 and once in 2017 at Altoona, but has been mostly an outfielder as a professional.
“I’ve never seen him play third base,” Hurdle said. “Would I consider it? No. Not right now.”
Jamo (4.50) vs Jon Lester (4.46)
— Alan Saunders (@ASaunders_PGH) September 7, 2017