The Pirates have recalled Gift Ngoepe from AAA. To make room on the active roster, they’ve optioned right-hander Dovydas Neverauskas back to Indianapolis.
It seems likely that Ngoepe will get into a game quickly, despite Clint Hurdle’s tendency to disappear rookies, as it’ll be hard for Hurdle to hide (Or is it hide from?) both Ngoepe and Alen Hanson. Once he appears, Ngoepe will be the first player born in South Africa to play in the majors, giving the Pirates two such landmark appearances in a short stretch. In fact, they’ve gone one step further, as Ngoepe will be the first major league player born on the entire continent of Africa. He’s a legitimate shortstop with considerable defensive talent, and has significant experience at second and a little at third. His bat is the issue. He got off to a fast start at Indianapolis but is now batting 241/308/379, after posting a .644 OPS there last year. More notably, his strikeout rate — 22 in 66 plate appearances, still a slight reduction from last year — is alarming, so it’s a question whether he’ll be able to handle major league pitching. If the Pirates ever get a lead again, though, he’ll at worst be useful as a defensive replacement on a team on which the defense has been even more woeful than the offense. And it’d be incredibly neat if he got a hit in his first at-bat. If only he could play eight positions at once . . . .
Ironically, Ngoepe took the spot of the guy who established the other big milestone. Neverauskas’ stay in the majors was short, although he’ll no doubt be back at some point. The team instead opted to keep Johnny Barbato, who’s probably more suited to longer relief outings. With David Freese’s discomfort duration uncertain for now, the Pirates at least won’t need to play with a three-man bench. They face the prospect of a Tyler Glasnow start against the Cubs tonight, but Gerrit Cole’s brilliant-but-wasted start last night and an off-day tomorrow will help with managing the bullpen, which increasingly seems to be their highest priority.