Beleaguered third baseman Pedro Alvarez was due to come off bereavement leave Friday, leaving the Pittsburgh Pirates with a decision to make.
As it turned out, the Pirates went in a completely different direction prior to this evening’s game against the San Diego Padres at PNC Park, designating relief pitcher Ernesto Frieri for assignment. According to collective bargaining rules, the team has 10 days to decide whether to place Frieri on waivers for demotion purposes or grant him an outright release.
The 29-year-old Frieri has struggled since arriving from Anaheim in June in exchange for Jason Grilli. He made 14 appearances for the Pirates, accumulating a 10.13 earned-run average over that span.
Although Frieri averaged about a strikeout per inning, he also walked five and appeared to lack confidence in an off-speed pitch. He also couldn’t reliably control his fastball, which led to his plunking of Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt last Friday and the subsequent retaliation against McCutchen.
Coincidentally, that drama-filled appearance could be Frieri’s last in a Pirates uniform. He wasn’t used in the past four games – the only pitcher in the bullpen that sat idle during the just-concluded home series against Miami.
The decision to jettison Frieri might mean that Walker and McCutchen might still have some healing to do. Walker has missed three of Pittsburgh’s past four games with lower-back tightness, while McCutchen suffered a rib fracture Sunday and sat out the Miami series in hopes of avoiding the disabled list.
Interestingly enough, Alvarez was spotted working out at first base during Friday’s batting practice, raising the possibility he sees action at that position sometime soon. Alvarez has committed a stunning 21 throwing errors at third base this season.