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Pirates make expected bench moves

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MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Atlanta Braves Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

As expected, the Pirates have designated infielder Alen Hanson for assignment, optioned infielder Gift Ngoepe to Indianapolis, and called up infielders Max Moroff and Phil Gosselin.

The moves as a group illustrate the many problems the Pirates have had in building a bench throughout much of Neal Huntington’s term as GM. The team has adopted a number of strategies or philosophies — an obsession with preserving assets; a belief that veteran backups aren’t risky; a reluctance to rely on their own prospects; and a belief that being able to play lots of positions is more important than being able to hit, as well as the related belief that a good glove is more important than a marginally useful bat for a bench player, even though bench players are more likely to be needed for offensive rather than defensive uses — that have repeatedly shot them in the foot. The one philosophy that never seems to intrude into the Pirates’ bench-building is the need to have a good bench.

The Pirates went with Hanson at the start of the season, even though they clearly didn’t regard him as a major league player, because he’s out of options. Sure enough, he didn’t play like a major league player. So instead of biting the bullet, relying on their own assessment and designating him for assignment at the end of camp, they stuck with him for two months in which he did nothing to help the team. And now they have to expose him to waivers anyway.

Ngoepe’s callup made a certain amount of sense, because he’s actually good defensively, but he really just duplicated what they already had in Hanson. Meanwhile, most of the time the Pirates had Chris Bostick and Max Moroff hitting extremely well in AAA. But they were blocked, in varying permutations, by the tandem of Hanson and Ngoepe, and by the struggling, but veteran!, Gosselin, who wasn’t hitting or fielding anywhere close to a major league level. Gosselin hit pretty well during his time in AAA. Bostick hit much better, of course, and he plays the same positions as Gosselin, but . . . veteran! Even being a AAA veteran seems to count for more, as the Pirates have given opportunities to Danny Ortiz, who’s spent years showing that he’s not even a good hitter at the AAA level, rather than give Bostick a shot.

So, at least Moroff will get a chance. Or he’ll get Ciriaco’d. Time will tell.