Right-hander Jordan Lyles is still the leading candidate for the Pirates’ final rotation spot, general manager Neal Huntington said today (Twitter link via Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). Huntington candidly indicated that the 28-year-old entered camp as the favorite to win the job, adding that neither he nor his primary competition — Nick Kingham and Steven Brault — has done anything to change that. Those comments did come before Lyles exited today’s appearance with some cramping in his right side (link via the Post-Gazette’s Nubyjas Wilborn), though the move was described as “precautionary.” Lyles hasn’t exactly dominated this spring, pitching to a 4.91 ERA on 13 hits and five walks with seven strikeouts through 11 innings, although the Pirates are surely more concerned with the quality of his offerings than his bottom-line results in a small sample of exhibition innings. Lyles signed a one-year deal worth $2.05MM to join the Pirates this offseason after posting a 4.11 ERA with career-best K/BB numbers in 87 2/3 innings between the Padres and the Brewers.
Here’s more from the NL Central…
- Cubs righty Pedro Strop sustained a “mild” right hamstring strain in his most recent Cactus League outing on Saturday and is now questionable for the beginning of the season, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. (That, it should be noted, is not the same hamstring that sidelined Strop near the end of the 2018 season.) Strop will continue to play catch while resting and rehabbing the leg issue, and there’s still a chance that he could be ready to open the season on the active roster rather than the injured list. Currently, he’s in line to close games in Chicago while Brandon Morrow is out early in the year, though if Strop does hit the IL, veteran Steve Cishek would seem likely to be the next man up.
- The Reds’ offseason additions of Sonny Gray, Alex Wood, Tanner Roark, Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp were a welcome departure from what has become standard operating procedure for many noncompetitive teams in recent seasons, opines Joel Sherman of the New York Post. While many teams have followed the Astros’ model of aggressively tanking to stockpile draft picks and international bonus resources, the Reds at least positioned themselves to have a chance in the division, even if few would peg them as any sort of favorite. “For the first time in a long time we added multiple well-known major league players to this team in an offseason,” president of baseball operations Dick Williams tells Sherman. “That clearly has people’s imaginations going. That is part of the fun. … Just to be able to ponder the possible and the excitement is a huge psychological benefit to our fans.” Even if the moves ultimately fail to yield dividends, several of the newly acquired assets (namely Wood, Roark and Puig) could hold value on the summer trade market, and the Reds didn’t sacrifice any of the organization’s very top prospects in order to take a shot at improved results in 2019.