With Opening Day in Cincinnati only three days away, the Pittsburgh Pirates continued cutting down the active roster in search of the 26-man squad set to depart north from Bradenton.
On Monday, the Bucs made four roster moves to trim the number of players remaining in big league camp to 32. Infielder Mark Mathias was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis in a somewhat head-turning move. Acquired from the Texas Rangers on March 8 for a player to be named later, the 28-year-old Mathias totaled seven hits in 28 at-bats (.250 avg), scoring four runs, drove in five, and stole two bases.
The Pirates also reassigned right-handed pitcher Tyler Chatwood and infielders Chris Owings and Drew Maggi to minor league camp. The transactions further opens the door for utilityman Ji Hwan Bae to make the Opening Day roster as the only possible backup shortstop. It also inspires good news for outfielder Canaan Smith-Njigba, who fractured his right wrist following only five MLB at-bats since making his big league debut.
The Pirates previously optioned left-handed pitcher Angel Perdomo and outfielder Miguel Andujar to the Minor Leagues on Sunday. Developed as a third baseman before being acquired off waivers from the New York Yankees, Andujar is not on the 40-man roster and will begin the year in Triple-A despite driving in nine runs in as many games with the Pirates to close 2022.
Derek Shelton’s bench will likely be Bae, Smith-Njigba, infielder/outfielder Connor Joe and catcher Tyler Heineman, who needs to be added to the 40-man. The Pirates begin the 2023 season against the Reds on Thursday beginning at 4:10 p.m. Mitch Keller takes the mound for Pittsburgh, making his first Opening Day start, opposite righty flamethrower Hunter Greene.