- Pirates reserve catcher Chris Stewart will attempt to play through knee soreness, head athletic trainer Todd Tomczyk told reporters including Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Twitter link). An MRI showed “wear and tear” to the joint, which could ultimately require surgery, but it seems that Stewart will at least make an effort to avoid going under the knife.
9:25am: Glasnow will actually debut tomorrow against the Cardinals, Olney now tweets. Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review tweets that Glasnow’s promotion was in part driven by uncertainty surrounding Niese’s left knee. Niese’s start has been pushed from Thursday to Sunday, and he’s being examined in Pittsburgh today.
The 22-year-old Glasnow entered the season rated as a consensus top 15 prospect throughout the game and has worked to a 1.78 ERA through 96 innings at the Triple-A level this season. While he’s averaged 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings pitched in that time, he’s also averaged 4.9 walks per nine, so there are certainly some control issues that need to be further smoothed out. That high walk rate notwithstanding, Glasnow has yielded just 13 hits over his past 40 frames.
Entering the season, Baseball America rated Glasnow as the No. 14 prospect in baseball, writing that he featured a fastball that sits 94-96 mph but tops out at 99 mph and appears even faster than that to hitters due to his 6’8″ frame. Glasnow also offers a curve and a changeup, the former of which BA termed “unhittable when he has command of it.” MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis rated Glasnow as the No. 10 prospect and praised his clean delivery but noted that he struggles to consistently repeat it due to his size. ESPN’s Keith Law ranked him fourth on his midseason update of the game’s Top 25 prospects, calling him a future ace. Virtually any scouting report one can find on Glasnow agrees that his ceiling is that of a top-of-the-rotation starter, and the Pirates undoubtedly have visions of Glasnow and fellow top prospect Jameson Taillon joining current ace Gerrit Cole atop their rotation for the next several years in their perfect-world scenario.
Pittsburgh currently has Cole, Taillon and Ryan Vogelsong on the Major League disabled list, so the need for some rotation help is understandable. Those injuries, combined with struggles from veterans such as Francisco Liriano and Jon Niese, have led to season-long rotation problems. As such, the Bucs have had to dip into their farm system on multiple occasions to help patch things up; Pittsburgh received four good innings from left-hander Steven Brault in his big league debut yesterday and, and rookie right-hander Chad Kuhl has also made a pair of starts in the past week. The overall results for the starting staff haven’t been pretty, as Pirates starters rank 20th in the Majors with a 4.67 ERA and 21st with 464 innings thrown. Glasnow will become the 11th player to make a start for the team in 2016.
Innings don’t figure to be as significant of an issue with Glasnow as they are with Taillon, who didn’t pitch in 2014-15 due to injuries. However, Glasnow did total a fairly limited 109 1/3 innings last season between Double-A and Triple-A (an ankle injury cost him about a month of the season), and his career-high for innings pitched came back in 2014, when he totaled 143 2/3 frames between Class-A Advanced and the Arizona Fall League. As such, the Bucs will probably keep an eye on his workload moving forward.
Exactly how he factors into the rotation plans moving forward is yet unclear — this could be a spot start, or Glasnow could make regular starts with innings/pitch limits moving forward — but given the team’s injuries and the presence of Brault and Kuhl in the current rotation picture, it certainly seems possible that there’s a permanent spot to be won. If Glasnow is indeed in the Majors to stay, he’d be controllable through the 2022 season and would not be eligible for arbitration until after the 2019 season. He won’t sniff Super Two eligibility as it stands right now, as he’d finish the year with 87 days of Major League service time if he’s promoted on Friday and sticks through season’s end.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Chicago police department is investigating an allegation of sexual assault against Pirates infielder Jung Ho Kang, as Stacy St. Clair and David Henzmann of the Chicago Tribune report. The ballclub has issued a statement, signed to CEO Frank Coonelly, in which it declined comment but did acknowledge the investigation.
According to the report, the investigation relates to events that occurred during the Pirates’ trip to Chicago last month. Pittsburgh played a series against the Cubs at Wrigley Field from June 17th through 19th. You can find further details of the claims at the link provided above.
Kang, 29, has played with the Pirates since the start of 2015 after previously featuring as a star in his native Korea. He has been a high-quality player for Pittsburgh, though certainly on-field considerations are not of primary concern given the seriousness of the matter at hand.
The Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Policy governs the investigation and punishment of matters such as these, as well as many related issues. Commissioner Rob Manfred has the authority to place Kang on paid administrative leave for seven days while the league begins looking into the matter, though no such action has been taken to this point.
This news comes even as Jose Reyes returns today for the Mets after serving a lengthy suspension for a domestic violence incident. Major league baseball has doled out suspensions to two other players — Hector Olivera and Aroldis Chapman — under the above-noted policy, which was announced last August. So far as has been publicly reported, none of those situations involved allegations of sexual violence, but instead fell under the policy due to their domestic implications.
[Related: Updated Pirates Depth Chart]
Originally selected in the seventh round of the 2012 draft out of the University of North Carolina, Stallings has steadily climbed through the Bucs’ system but has never hit much. He appeared briefly at the major league level for the first time this year, but has played mostly at Triple-A in 2016.
Stallings’s already borderline bat hasn’t improved thus far in 2016; far from it, in fact. Over his first 180 plate appearances at the highest level of the minors,the 26-year-old owns a meager .202/.239/.327 slash line.
The Pirates have prized rookie right-hander Jameson Taillon on the 15-day DL due to fatigue in his throwing shoulder. Southpaw Steven Brault will start tomorrow’s game against the Cardinals in Taillon’s place, and another move will need to be made to create space for Brault on the 40-man roster.
[Related: updated Pirates depth chart at Roster Resource]
Taillon missed all of the 2014 and 2015 seasons recovering from both Tommy John surgery and a hernia operation, and he returned to dominate over 61 2/3 IP at Triple-A. That dominance (as well as some injuries to the Pirates’ rotation) led to two separate callups this season, and Taillon acquitted himself pretty well in his first taste of big league action. The 24-year-old righty had a 3.86 ERA, 6.8 K/9 and 4.20 K/BB rate over 28 innings with the Pirates, and he looked in good form during his last start on June 29, holding Seattle to one run on six hits over six innings.
The Pirates were naturally going to be careful with Taillon’s innings given his long injury layoff and the fact that he’d never thrown more than 147 1/3 frames in any one pro season. This could very well be a precautionary DL stint based on Taillon showing the first hint of an issue, though obviously any type of shoulder-related DL stint is troubling given Taillon’s importance to Pittsburgh’s rotation plans in both the long and short term.
The Bucs’ pitching staff has been plagued by injuries (Taillon joins Gerrit Cole and Ryan Vogelsong on the DL) and underperformance from Francisco Liriano, Jeff Locke and Jon Niese. Chad Kuhl has already gotten the call from Triple-A to bolster the rotation, and one has to wonder if the Pirates will promote another top prospect by bringing Tyler Glasnow to the bigs. Glasnow has a 1.78 ERA and 10.6 K/9 over 96 Triple-A innings this season, though he has also posted a troubling 4.9 BB/9.
Brault was rated as the 15th-best minor leaguer in Pittsburgh’s system by the 2016 Baseball America Prospect Handbook. He was credited with having excellent command and an ability to limit homers and induce grounders, which helps counter an “ordinary” changeup and curve, and a fastball in the 89-91 mph range. Brault has a 3.34 ERA, 11.3 K/9 and 2.93 K/BB rate over 35 Triple-A innings this season.
- The Pirates have outrighted right-hander Jorge Rondon to Triple-A, per an announcement from the team’s affiliate at Indianapolis. Rondon had been designated for assignment recently. He has a 2.72 ERA over his rather extensive time at Triple-A, but has yet to show much in his brief time at the major league level.
In his first start since May 29, Athletics left-hander Rich Hill returned from a groin injury to throw six innings of two-run, four-hit ball and rack up six strikeouts against two walks Saturday. Several playoff contenders sent representatives to observe Hill’s outing against the Pirates, reports Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Incidentally, the Bucs were among the teams scouting him. In addition, four of the 36-year-old journeyman’s previous employers – the Orioles, Red Sox, Cubs and Yankees – as well as the Dodgers and Royals were in attendance to watch Hill, who could be the best starter dealt before the Aug. 1 trade deadline. The free agent-to-be has been brilliant when healthy this year, recording a 2.31 ERA, 10.29 K/9, 49.7 percent ground-ball rate and 15.3 percent infield fly rate in 70 innings. Dating back to his four-start revival in Boston last September, the out-of-nowhere ace has put up a tremendous 2.09 ERA in 99 frames.
3:33pm: The Pirates have announced both the Fryer claim and right-handed reliever Rob Scahill’s designation for assignment. Scahill threw 16 1/3 innings for the Pirates this year prior to the designation and recorded a 4.41 ERA, 7.16 K/9, 3.31 BB/9 and 58 percent ground-ball rate. In 104 big league innings, the 29-year-old owns a 3.89 ERA, 6.23 K/9, 3.72 BB/9 and 52.7 percent grounder rate.
[RELATED: Updated Pirates depth chart]
1:32pm: The Pirates have claimed catcher Eric Fryer off waivers from the division-rival Cardinals, reports Chris Cotillo of SB Nation (Twitter link). The 30-year-old became available when the Redbirds designated him for assignment Tuesday, though they were hoping he’d sneak through waivers and remain in the organization.
This will be the second stint in Pittsburgh for Fryer, who was previously with the Bucs from 2010-12. He looks poised to take the place of Chris Stewart – who could head to the disabled list, Adam Berry of MLB.com tweets. Stewart would then join starting backstop Francisco Cervelli as the second Bucs catcher on the DL, leaving the position to Fryer and Erik Kratz.
In parts of six major league seasons, Fryer has totaled 199 trips to the plate and hit .270/.347/.354. Forty-one of those PAs came this year in St. Louis, with which Fryer slashed an outstanding .368/.415/.421. Those numbers are vastly superior to the .237/.328/.328 line Fryer has compiled in 935 Triple-A plate appearances, so regression is clearly on the way. Defensively, Fryer has graded respectably as a pitch framer and thrown out 29 percent of base stealers during his minor league career.
- The Pirates’ frustration with scuffling left-hander Francisco Liriano has begun to manifest itself, details John Perrotto of Today’s Knuckleball. Pitching coach Ray Searage became so irked at Liriano during a recent bullpen session that the former ended up leaving and storming back into the clubhouse, according to Perrotto. Part of Searage’s frustration stems from Liriano’s refusal to abide by the Pirates’ wish for him to pick one side of the rubber and stick with it consistently. The 32-year-old Liriano, a potential trade candidate who’s owed $13MM next season, has followed three straight stellar campaigns with an ugly 2016. So far, Liriano has logged a bloated ERA (5.33) and walk rate (5.88 per nine innings) in 82 2/3 frames, and ERA estimators like FIP (5.46), xFIP (4.75) and SIERA (4.93) are also noticeably down on his performance.
Injured Cubs slugger Kyle Schwarber probably isn’t going anywhere this summer, as Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. President of baseball operations Theo Epstein gave strong signals that he’s got little interest in seeing Schwarber return from his knee injury in another uniform. While there’s always plenty of posturing this time of year, Epstein certainly made clear that there’s a higher-than-usual barrier to a trade involving the catcher/outfielder.
Here’s more from the NL Central:
- The Brewers are winding up for what looks to be an important trade deadline, as MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy reports. Milwaukee has several notable names that rate amongst the top twenty trade candidates this summer, but few represent straightforward decisions. GM David Stearns says that “the calls have picked up over the last week to ten days,” though it’s “still largely informational.” Right now, the club is getting a feel for the teams it is looking to target in reaching agreements over the coming month. “You try to get a sense of what other clubs are doing, where you might have fits, so you can begin to do additional target work on certain target organizations,” says Stearns. “At this point, we feel well-prepared in terms of organizations we’re likely to have serious discussions with.”
- Selling was never in the plans for the Pirates, but the club increasingly looks to be in a tough spot — in no small part due to the struggles of lefty Francisco Liriano, who owns a 5.33 ERA with 9.0 K/9 and 5.9 BB/9 on the year. Manager Clint Hurdle tells John Perrotto of the Beaver County Times that Liriano is still failing to command the ball with consistency. “Sometimes, it’s hard to pitch when you aren’t feeling the way you’ve felt when you’ve had success,” Hurdle said. “We’re going to continue to peel back the layers and try to push through this. We’ll continue to look at video. We’ll see if we can find some answers.” We have heard at least some suggestion that there’d be interest around the league in the talented lefty, who had turned in three-straight stellar campaigns heading into 2016. But he’s owed $13MM both this year and next, and surely any acquiring team would be looking for a buy-low opportunity.