Monday, August 4, 2014

Ron Cook: Cutch Expected To Go On DL; Pirates Have a Lot of Moving Pieces to Connect

Ron Cook of the Post Gazette wrote in his column that Cutch is expected to hit the 15-day DL with an oblique injury. That's what was feared when he was half-carried into the dugout yesterday, and an oblique can take a while to heal; we could be looking at a month. (EDIT - Rob Biertempfel's sources confirmed the oblique diagnosis, and while not confirming the DL trip, admitted it was likely but not yet certain.)

Was it related to getting drilled in the back Friday? Probably not. Though it may have indirectly contributed, the odds are likely that the issues are separate.

Andrew is hitting .311/.411/.536 with a 167 OPS+ and 32 doubles, 17 home runs, 67 RBI, 17 stolen bases and a league-leading 67 walks in 109 games this year, out-performing his 2013 MVP stat line. The Bucs can't duplicate that production.

With Josh going to the hot corner, it looks like Travis Snider will get more OF time, with Starling Marte taking over in center (and rehab or not, we'd bet that he'll be at PNC Park tomorrow.) Andrew Lambo has been mashing at Indy, but it's not likely that with Polanco and Snider on the active roster that another lefty OF'er (lookin' at you, Jaff Decker) will get the call. JT's not even on the 40-man roster anymore, though that could be rectified quickly if the Pirates so desire. Righty Mel Rojas Jr, who's been having a bit of a breakout year (.286 BA/.379 OBP at Indy) is a more remote possibility.

More likely is a waiver deal, although the other GM's will undoubtedly ask for the ranch for a rental, given the circumstances. It has been duly noted that Marlon Byrd is on waivers, as is much of the Philly team. It has also been duly noted that GM Ruben Amaro wants nothing less than a first-born son for his slackers. Byrd in particular has a high price, even though he has another year at $8M guaranteed on his contract with a vesting option for another $8M in 2016.

The Bucs are 10th in the NL on the waiver list claimants, so they may or may not have luck finding someone to drop to them. But some guys will clear; Wednesday would be the earliest that could happen, and we'll have a better idea of how the market develops as the week goes on.

The Pirates haven't commented yet, and why should they? They have until tomorrow to get the roster set. The lack of a denial is pretty much accepted as a back-hand confirmation in these cases.

It'll also provide us with a look at the Pirate brass in full-scramble mode. Marte, if they bring him up tomorrow, will swap out for the time being with Cutch. If Gerrit Cole returns at the end of the week or early next week he has a rehab start at Indy tomorrow), logic suggests assigning Edinson Volquez to the pen and sending Ernesto Frieri on his merry way. Jayson Nix/Michael Martinez also are spots waiting to be taken when Clint Barmes comes back.

Clint Hurdle has the decidedly difficult task of putting together a lineup card that doesn't include Cutch's name penciled in third. And finally, let's hope the long plane ride doesn't aggravate Neal Walker's stiff back.

Of course, injuries aren't unique to the Pirates. Milwaukee has been fairly bullet-proof this year, but the Cards have Yadier Molina and Michael Wacha out while the Reds lost Joey Votto for a spell and then Brandon Phillips. The Bucs have made do without Frankie Liriano, and still have Starling Marte and Gerrit Cole out, though they should be recalled soon.

For sure, there are a lot of moving pieces right now, and how the management pulls them together will have a big impact on the way the final fifty-some games and the pennant race play out.

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