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Neal Huntington: Josh Bell brought up to play 'decent amount'

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Bell will play

With Jung-Ho Kang on the 15-day disabled list, David Freese will receive the bulk of playing time at third and Josh Bell is expected to get regular reps at first base, Neal Huntington said Sunday afternoon.

"Clint [Hurdle] will make the decision, on a daily basis, what he feels to be the best lineup to give us a chance to win that night," Huntington said. "We brought Josh up to play a decent amount, and how much he plays will be dictated by some things beyond his control but also some things within his control."

The Pirates are prepared for Bell's defense to continue to be a "work in progress," but, as Clint Hurdle mentioned after Saturday night's game, the club likes the offensive potential he provides.

"There are going to be some times where he shows he is a two-year old first baseman," Huntington said. "We anticipate he'll make some plays he's supposed to make. We anticipate there'll be some plays he doesn't make. Our hope he'll make some plays that make you sit back and go, ‘Man, that's great.'"

Pirates looking to tweak Cole back to form

We've looked at some of Gerrit Cole's uncharacteristic struggles putting batters away with two strikes this season. He is posting a 131 OPS+, the highest of his career, and a 79-point spike from last year. This is also the first time he has pitched worse than league average in two-strike counts.

After his last start Cole expressed frustration with some "weird hits" and "weird luck." Huntington said that the right-hander's struggles with two strikes are a combination of bad luck, execution and "conviction" with his pitches.

"There is something that isn't quite right," Huntington said. "And that reminds us again how challenging this game is. That it is that small of a difference between two or three really good outings or right now, where you ask me questions about why he is struggling. We feel Gerrit is just a minor tweak from being the guy that we've all come to expect."

Breather may benefit Kang

Huntington said that the staff feels that part of Jung Ho Kang's recent struggles are connected to his legs "not quite being where they were a year ago." The lack of explosiveness is not directly related to last season's injury, but more so a product of not going through normal "baseball training" over the off season.

"He was rehabilitating last off season, and, really, he was building leg strength in February and March, and that is not normal for these guys to be building leg strength that late," Huntington said. "I probably haven't given the fact that he had a rehabilitation off season enough credit. I've talked more about his mechanics. If your body isn't responding the way you want it to, the body might be right but you might be just a step late. So this little breather right here could be a benefit for him. This could be nice break for Jung Ho."

Drew Hutchison and roster expansion

One of the lessons Huntington has learned over the years is that managers don't necessarily want an overabundance of options once rosters expand in September. They worry about keeping everyone engaged and active. As a general manager, Huntington said, the tendency is to want enough players for any exigency, but he's learned that can be counterproductive.

The Pirates general manager didn't give any specifics about who might be joining the team in a couple weeks. When asked about Drew Hutchison, Huntington said, the club was "counting on him, whether it is later this year or certainly in the future."

"We like a lot of things about him," Huntington continued. "We gave up some significant players to get him. It's been good."

Nick Kingham

If everything goes well with Nick Kingham's rehabilitation, he could find himself in the mix to follow Jameson Taillon's route to the majors next year.

"Who knows, maybe he puts himself in a position as Jameson did this year to help us a some point early next spring," Huntington said.