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Perrotto: Pirates’ Inability to Field Three Outfielders is Embarrassing

PITTSBURGH — In the latest bit of Pirates’ bad news, right fielder Gregory Polanco was placed on the 10-day disabled list prior to Wednesday night’s 6-1 victory over the Washington Nationals at PNC Park.

Polanco being sidelined by a strained right hamstring means only one of the three members of the Pirates’ celebrated outfield is on the active roster. That is Andrew McCutchen, who is hitting just .214 with six home runs and a .679 OPS in 38 games even after going 2-for-4 with a two-run single Wednesday.

Starling Marte is serving an 80-game suspension imposed April 18 by Major League Baseball for violating its performance enhancing drug policy.

However, what was even more disheartening for the Pirates had to be reaching down to Class AAA Indianapolis and knowing their best option was Danny Ortiz.

They might have better off bringing former backup catcher Junior Ortiz out of retirement. While it is doubtful Junior Ortiz would cover much ground in the outfield at 57, his great sense of humor would certainly be welcome in a humorless organization.

It is hard to imagine Danny Ortiz making much of an impact.

It took him 10 seasons in the minor leagues before making his major league debut April 29, playing the final three innings of the Pirates’ 4-0 victory over the Marlins at Miami. He was hitting .253 with a .599 OPS in 27 games at Indianapolis.

The simplest solution would have been to call up Austin Meadows, the organization’s top prospect, form Indy. However, he is hitting just .226 with one homer and a .593 OPS in 34 games.

The Pirates feel Meadows would be overwhelmed by major league pitching and scouts from other organizations agree. Thus, Meadows is basically Danny Ortiz with pedigree at this point in the season, though it is hard to deny the 21-year-old’s potential.

The other outfielders at Indianapolis are the always-injured Barrett Barnes and Eury Perez, a right-handed hitting clone of Ortiz.

It is understandable why the Pirates did not make adding outfield depth a priority in the offseason, especially after they failed to trade McCutchen and expected — if all went well — that he, Marte and Polanco would all be good for 150-plus starts.

However, it was not an excuse to leave that depth so threadbare that the Pirates have been carrying two legitimate outfielders on their roster for the better part of a month.

Thus, manager Clint Hurdle has been forced to parade a motley crew of first basemen and utility infielders through the two corner outfield spots, a group that includes Jose Osuna, John Jaso, Adam Frazier and Chris Bostick.

Not having at least three outfielders is roster malpractice. Unlike catchers or shortstops, there is not a paucity of competent outfielders in professional baseball.

It might be short changing outfielders to say they are a dime a dozen but they are not that hard to find. That the Pirates have not been to acquire someone, even if that player is on another organization’s Class AAA roster, is hard to fathom.

Hurdle said prior to the game that general manager Neal Huntington has been trying to acquire an outfielder without success.

An industry source said the Pirates put in a claim on Matt Szczur when the Chicago Cubs designated for him assignment May 6.

However, the San Diego Padres also placed a claim and had priority because their record was worse than the Pirates. The Padres wound up acquired Szczur in a trade for a minor league pitcher.

That isn’t to say that Szczur would transform a last-place team that is also missing a pair of key players in right-hander Jameson Taillon and third baseman Jung Ho Kang into a first-place team.

However, he would be a significant upgrade over who the Pirates are playing in the outfield now and give them a look of  a legitimate major league team.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. JP Ziller

    May 18, 2017 at 4:34 pm

    Adam Frazier part of the motley crew? I’m guessing you don’t know a good swing when you see it because Frazier has a great swing. Four RBIs out of leadoff today, just keep watching, the dude can hit.

  2. Sam Reich

    May 19, 2017 at 5:09 pm

    John: Give Ortiz a chance. He played very well in Spring games, both at bat and in field. Osuna was more productive at bat. I think it is a good idea to be able to send out an experienced OF for late inning defense. Ortiz can do that job, and maybe more, at least until Polonco returns.

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