The Pirates will attempt to convert veteran outfielder JB Shuck into a two-way player, director of player development Larry Broadway told Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic. Shuck will begin honing his pitching skills at Triple-A Indianapolis, where he has been playing since the Pirates outrighted him May 8.
The journeyman Shuck, 31, cracked Pittsburgh’s injury-plagued outfield entering the season after signing a minor league pact during the winter. However, as has been the case throughout his career, he didn’t provide much at the plate. The lefty-swinging Shuck, a lifetime .243/.296/.314 hitter in 1,289 major league plate appearances, batted .213/.339/.255 in 57 PA before the Pirates removed him from their 40-man roster.
Although Shuck’s hasn’t established himself as an offensive asset since debuting in the majors with the Astros in 2011, the Pirates aren’t abandoning hope that he’ll be able to help them down the line. Broadway explained to Biertempfel that the Pirates’ goal is for Shuck to emerge as a two-way contributor in the majors, not just the minors. Shuck’s on board with Pittsburgh’s outside-the-box thinking, telling Biertempfel he’s “all for trying it” if it’s for the betterment of his career. He also thinks “more two-way guys” could become “a new trend,” thanks in part to a rule that will enable teams to designate “two-way players” effective next year. But Shuck will first have to total 20 appearances with at least three PA as a position player (he’s at 10 right now) and 20 innings as a pitcher to become eligible for the two-way designation in 2020.
Contributing as a pitcher isn’t foreign to Shuck, who was a two-way player in high school and college. As an Ohio State Buckeye, Shuck amassed 223 innings of 3.87 ERA ball. The southpaw has since totaled a pair of mop-up appearances in the majors, including a scoreless, one-hit, one-walk frame in a blowout loss to the Diamondbacks earlier this season.