Pittsburgh Pirates’ Depth Being Tested As They Try To Get Back In Division Race


One thing very noticeable about the disappointing start to the 2014 season for the Pittsburgh Pirates is that their depth is being tested.

And while the losses pile up, one has to wonder if the Pirates can continue to sustain the amount of injuries they have already sustained. During their playoff run in 2013, the Pirates were fortunate for the most part in terms of injuries.

May 6, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates left fielder Starling Marte (6) runs from first to third against the San Francisco Giants during the second inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

That hasn’t been the case at all this season.

We have already seen starting pitcher Wandy Rodriguez head to the disabled list and return last week. But all reports suggest that his injured knee is still not 100 percent.

However if there was one injury the Pirates could get by with it is Rodriguez as the Bucs have starting pitching depth in the minors to turn to.

However they also have reliever Jason Grilli and catcher Russell Martin sitting on the DL and watch outfielders Jose Tabata and Starling Marte leave Sunday’s action against the New York Yankees.

All signs point to Grilli returning soon as the Post Gazette’s Bill Brink wrote:

"Grilli, who is on the 15-day DL because of a strained left oblique, threw 20 pitches in one inning.‘Followed the glove very well,’ Clint Hurdle said. ‘I thought the breaking ball shaped up better than last time out, sharper. Threw some changeups. I thought it was a very good step forward for him.’The Pirates want Grilli to pitch on consecutive days before activating him, Hurdle said, and hope to have him do so when they return to Pittsburgh."

However while Grilli wasn’t off to the greatest of starts and the Pirates bullpen has been effective for the most part this season, Mark Melancon has blown a pair of saves in Grilli’s absence.

Then there is the case of Martin, who is on the 15-day disabled list because of a strained left hamstring. Martin took batting practice, completed strength and agility drills, and ran the bases this weekend. He could be nearing a return.

He has been missed badly as Tony Sanchez hasn’t performed well in his first extended major-league look.

While Sanchez has hit a couple of homers recently, his throwing hasn’t come around. He’s someone you want in the lineup for his bat, but has hit only .244 (11 for 45) this month, and while he has done some positive things behind the plate, he looks more like a catcher destined to head back to Triple-A than a guy who had the opportunity to seize a job and make a statement that he belongs at the big-league level permanently.

Then there is the cases of Marte and Tabata, both of whom left Sunday’s game with hamstring tightness. That situation alone should start the calls for Gregory Polanco back up, but that is a scenario that is likely to happen.

If neither guy is at 100 percent when the Pirates return home Tuesday against the Baltimore Orioles, it further tests the Pirates’ outfield depth as there isn’t a real answer to be had in the minors until Polanco has passed the Super 2 cutoff.

Jaff Decker and Andrew Lambo could be options if neither guy is deemed healthy, but at the end of the day this Pirates team is not built to contend with the amount of early-season injures they have sustained.

When the Pirates are completely healthy and performing well, their lineup is one that contend. When they aren’t and their depth is being tested like this, things can get ugly.

I think we have seen some of those results up to this point.

One can only hope the Pirates get healthy and do so rather quickly.