The Pirates have recalled right-handed reliever A.J. Schugel from Indianapolis. To create room, they’ve optioned catcher Elias Diaz to AAA.
Schugel currently has a 4.17 ERA and 1.36 WHIP in AAA. He’s walked 13 and struck out 36 in 36.2 IP. The numbers may be a little misleading. Schugel this year was coming off shoulder trouble that ended his 2016 season early. Possibly as a result, he struggled badly in the early season, posting a 9.82 ERA and 1.91 WHIP in April. Since then, he’s had a 1.75 ERA and 1.13 WHIP.
Diaz’ departure was expected, as the Pirates weren’t going to carry three catchers forever. The move, of course, means that the Pirates, as they so often do, will play with a short bench. At this point, Diaz is clearly a better player than Chris Stewart. The Pirates’ thinking no doubt is colored by the fact that Diaz can be sent to AAA and Stewart can’t, and given the extreme fragility of both Francisco Cervelli and Stewart, the team needs all three. Of course, the obvious response is that there’s no real difference between Stewart and Jacob Stallings, who remains on the 40-man roster, so the team would not be down to two catchers if it released Stewart.
The need for yet another middle reliever rather than a bench bat is equally difficult to see. The Pirates have only three more games before the All-Star break. They used only two relievers yesterday and Felipe Rivero wasn’t one of them. Wade LeBlanc hasn’t pitched in four days, Antonio Bastardo in five, Jhan Marinez in seven. More and more, the Pirates’ roster moves seem to be governed by an almost stalker-like obsession with veterans and middle relievers, as well as with an iron determination to preserve all assets, no matter how useless. The obvious solution, if they believe Schugel can help them in the majors, is to ditch Bastardo, whom they clearly don’t trust with the game on the line. But winning games doesn’t seem to enter into their calculations.