PITTSBURGH — Pirates general manager Neal Huntington sent a pretty clear signal with the waiving of Juan Nicasio that the front office is focused on 2018.
Saturday, that message was echoed by manager Clint Hurdle, as he inserted rookie catcher Elias Diaz and right fielder Jordan Luplow into the starting lineup in the second game of the Pirates’ three-game series with the Cincinnati Reds.
Gm 136: #Pirates (63-72) vs 🔴 (58-77)
Jamo (3.99) vs Tyler Mahle (5.40)
— Alan Saunders (@ASaunders_PGH) September 2, 2017
As the Pirates have seen in 2017 with the amount of young players they’ve relied on, there are bound to be some rough patches. Getting experience in September to hit the ground running could be a key for the Pirates entrusted with that opportunity.
“It can help,” Hurdle said. “I think how it helps is a much dependent on the player as it is the opportunity. They need to coincide, because September baseball can be jaded. We’re going to be playing teams in our division. Cincy is always tough on us, Milwaukee and Chicago, and then we finish the season with Washington. It should be some good competition for us. Some good opportunities. Whatever pitcher is on the mound is going to navigate some pretty good lineups and some payoff-bound lineups. There is some value.”
BUILDING TOWARD 2018?
Of course, getting young players experience with an eye towards 2018 won’t do the Pirates any good if they don’t feel the team can compete in 2018. Huntington’s moves at the deadline and after, when the Pirates unloaded only expiring contracts and brought on only players that are under control for 2018, suggested the front office believes they can contend with the group as it stands. Hurdle put those thoughts into words.
“You look at the position player pool, many of the challenges we’ve faced this year have been based on lack of participation. We have entrusted some young pitching with meaningful opportunities in starts and innings that I really believe will pay us dividends moving forward. … I do believe we can compete next year. Absolutely.”
TAILLON TAILING OFF?
Jameson Taillon had a rough month of August. In six starts, he had a 6.60 ERA and averaged just five innings per start. His WHIP was 1.83 and batters averaged an obscene .310 off him thanks in part to a .380 batting average on balls in play.
That part of what’s happened to Taillon recently is unlikely to continue. The rest, he has some control over and could get a start on correcting. His walk rate climbed from 8.7 percent on the season to 11.3 percent and his four home runs in August represent 44 percent of his season total.
Taillon has thrown 106 innings in the majors and 14 in the minors this season thanks to missing a month due to testicular cancer. But he’s still closing in on the career high of 165.2 IP he tossed in 2016. Given what Taillon has gone through this season, his recent struggles and Hurdle’s desire to see Steven Brault and Tyler Glasnow start some games down the stretch, it remains to be seen how many more opportunities Taillon will get.