Right-hander Chris Leroux, who played 41 of his 65 career MLB games in a Pirates uniform, is moving into a very different endeavo(u)r as the new star of The Bachelor Canada. Leroux, 33, posted a 6.03 ERA over 71 2/3 career innings in the bigs from 2009-14, pitching for the Marlins and Yankees as well as the Bucs. The Montreal native pitched for Canada in this year’s World Baseball Classic before announcing his retirement in March.
Here’s more (on the field) news out of Pittsburgh…
- The Pirates announced to reporters today that they’ve pulling left-hander Tony Watson from the closer’s role (Twitter link via Stephen J. Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). For the time being, Pittsburgh will rely on a combination of left-hander Felipe Rivero and right-hander Juan Nicasio in save situations. Both throw considerably harder than Watson and both have enjoyed a markedly better season than Watson, who has limped to a 4.44 ERA with 6.8 K/9, 2.7 BB/9 and a 41.4% ground-ball rate. Watson has been charged with two earned runs in four of his past seven appearances, and those struggles prompted the shift. The 32-year-old is a prime trade candidate, though his recent slump and deteriorating peripherals mean he’ll likely need a quick rebound if the Pirates are to receive much of value in exchange for their longtime reliever. To keep tabs on the ninth-inning situation for the Pirates and the other 29 teams, be sure to follow MLBTR’s affiliate Twitter site, @CloserNews.
- MLB.com’s Bill Ladson recently spoke to Andrew McCutchen, Clint Hurdle and Josh Harrison in three separate interviews on the same episode of his Newsmakers podcast. Bucs fans will want to check out the interviews in their entirety (either at the provided link or here for a direct download), but here are a few quotes of note, including McCutchen on how he has tried to ignore persistent trade rumors. “I just focus on my team, focus on the guys around me,” McCutchen said. “The more I try to focus on, ’Where am I going to be? Am I going to be here? Am I going to stay here?’ the more I lose that time with my teammates — with my friends — the more I lose the present. … Of course this is where I want to be. This is what I have on me right now, and that’s all I’m focusing on.”
- Speaking of those rumors, the outfielder chalked up the speculation to the need for hot stove chatter during a generally quiet Pirates offseason. “The take was: ’People need news. People need something to talk about. People need that big name because that’s the only thing that’s going to draw peoples’ attention to click on a page.’ That’s the way I looked at it,” McCutchen said. “People need something to talk about. So, in the midst of all of it, there was nothing that I could do. There may be some talks going on, but I’m a big name, and that’s about the only name that’s really big right now, at the time, so they talked about it. There could’ve been 10 other guys, 10 other big-name guys, that could’ve been in the same position in the news as myself, but since it was kind of a slow offseason, that’s the reason I think it was put out there. People need something to talk about. There’s nothing I can do about that. I can’t control that.”
- The Pirates’ struggles both this year and in 2016 have led to whispers that the club could be considering a rebuild, though Hurdle denied this. “Our focus is to win now, to win next year, win the year after,” Hurdle said. “[General manager] Neal Huntington has echoed that statement ever since he’s been here. Rebuilding… we reignite at times. We refuel at times. However, we don’t consider it rebuilding.”
- Speaking of Rivero, his new part-time closer, Hurdle said that Huntington was “steadfast in wanting Rivero included…from the start” in the trade that brought the southpaw to Pittsburgh from the Nationals last year in exchange for Mark Melancon. After two good seasons, Rivero has been flat-out dominant this season, posting an 0.58 ERA, 9.9 K/9 and 5.67 K/BB rate over 31 innings.