Huntington willing to add to roster
During his weekly Sunday meeting with the press, Neal Huntington said the organization is open to looking at external outfield options but, at least for now, Austin Meadows will not be promoted.
"We love Austin Meadows," Huntington said. "Austin Meadows is not the answer right now. Our hope is that he will be ready to be an answer for us at some point this season."
Externally, the Pirates are prepared to make "realistic" and "practical" moves to improve the team. To date, however, Huntington said they "haven't found any" upgrades. He noted that, historically, impactful trades don't happen until late May.
"We get the angst," Huntington said. "We get the concern. Unfortunately, in a small market there is going to be angst and concern about a number of things. It is up to us to put people in a position to be successful."
Of course, the source of all the angst and concern is the loss of Starling Marte for half of the season. Huntington said the organization was "blindsided" by the news and had no prior knowledge of the suspension. By union contract, only the player is told of a failed test and the organization is not notified until after the appeals process. The Pirates continue to work through the "timing and dates" for Marte to head down to Pirate City in Bradenton to work out and play in extended spring training games.
In Marte's absence, Andrew McCutchen has made no secret of his enthusiasm at returning to center field. After a fine catch in St. Louis, he pounded his chest and yelled "This is my spot." McCutchen's demonstrative displays are welcomed by Huntington:
"[We] Support it," Huntington said. "We moved him because we felt like we had a guy that would make our outfield better. Not because we didn't think Andrew could play center field. The narrative contrary to that is wrong. We believe Marte was our best center fielder and Andrew was our best right fielder, given that construct. ... He is playing with energy. He is playing with passion. And that is a great thing.
Nova bails out offense
The Pirates starting rotation is quickly evolving into an area of great strength and, boy, does this team need it. Although the offense was more unopportuntistic than it was dormant Sunday afternoon, it was still only able to manage two runs. The problem is slugging, where the Pirates rank last in the National League, and that doesn't figure to improve much. The team has managed only 15 home runs through 18 games.
Ivan Nova was rock solid again. He was only dinged for a solo home run over seven very efficient innings (87 pitches, 58 strikes). It is Nova's fourth quality start in as many games. Combined, Chad Kuhl, Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon and Nova have now accumulated 12 quality starts over 15 games.
"We have a really good group of guys," Nova said of the Pirates staff. "They are really smart. They know what they need to do. Those are really good guys."
After the game, the New York media was front and center in media scrum around Nova. They asked the right-hander if he thought the Yankees had given up on him too early.
"What can I tell you about it, man?" Nova said. "It's business. I always say, I'm not a GM. Whatever happens, happens, man."
Nova threw 18 first pitch strikes on his way to accumulating seven strike outs. He walked one (his first of the season) and allowed four hits.
"I don't know if it's the best [command we've seen from him]," Clint Hurdle said. "It's really good. He's done some good work here."
The one walk Nova allowed was to Yankees pitcher Jordan Montgomery.
Ninth inning tension
The Pirates squandered opportunities early, leaving men at third in both the first and second innings. On the day, they loaded the bases twice and only scored one run.
Hanging on to a one-run lead in the ninth, Tony Watson allowed a one out single and then a walk. Ronald Torreyes followed with a routine grounder to second that Josh Harrison bobbled and, suddenly, the bases were loaded. Watson came right back and struck out Aaron Hicks and then induced a ground ball from Pete Kozma to end it.
"That's what backend relief pitching is all about, just keeping your focus," Watson said. "It's one of those situations that's not ideal, but that game was one of the crazier games we've played this year."
So, the Pirates take the series from the Yankees and even though it is early, it feels important that they didn't drop this one with the Cubs coming to town. Monday night's game features Chad Kuhl vs. Brett Anderson.