CHICAGO -- With Ivan Nova activated off the disabled list and Francisco Cervelli's status uncertain, the Pirates made a series of roster moves before Sunday's series finale at Wrigley Field.
Pittsburgh optioned Nick Kingham and Adam Frazier to Triple-A Indianapolis, activated Nova to start Sunday's game and recalled catcher Jacob Stallings from Indianapolis. Kingham was sent down as the corresponding move for Nova's return to the rotation. The Pirates needed a backup catcher with Cervelli considered day to day, so they recalled Stallings and made room on the bench by sending out Frazier.
The Pirates are hopeful that Cervelli will not require a stint on the disabled list, general manager Neal Huntington said Sunday on his weekly radio show. Cervelli said X-rays on his jaw revealed only a bruise, not a fracture, and he passed early concussion tests after taking a foul tip off the left side of his face mask and exiting Saturday's game in the fourth inning.
"I'll be ready soon. You know me," Cervelli said. "It was not good for my team to keep playing that way."
If Cervelli winds up on the DL, the Pirates could immediately recall Frazier. Otherwise, Frazier will have to spend at least 10 days in Indianapolis -- his first extended stay in the Minors since he made his Major League debut in June 2016. Frazier was the Pirates' Opening Day leadoff hitter and designated hitter, but he has struggled to a .237/.318/.356 slash line in 152 plate appearances this season. He will mostly play second base in Triple-A, Huntington said on KDKA-FM, but he will also work in the outfield. The Pirates also hope that consistent playing time will help Frazier get back on track offensively.
Frazier served as the Pirates' regular second baseman when Josh Harrison was on the DL, but started only four of Pittsburgh's last 20 games. The Bucs have used Sean Rodriguez as their backup shortstop, and Austin Meadows' emergence has cut into Frazier's playing time in the outfield.
As long as Cervelli is unavailable, the Pirates will retain Stallings as their backup catcher. The 28-year-old played in 10 games for the Pirates the past two seasons. He was hitting .294 with a .740 OPS for Indianapolis. Stallings arrived in the Wrigley Field clubhouse on Sunday morning after being scratched from Indianapolis' lineup on Saturday night.
Kingham will return to Triple-A after a solid stint in the Pirates' rotation. Kingham put together a quality start on Saturday against the Cubs, allowing only two runs on four hits while striking out five over 6 1/3 innings. The 26-year-old right-hander has posted a 3.82 ERA and 0.99 WHIP with 35 strikeouts in six starts for Pittsburgh. Despite his early success, this is the third time the Bucs have optioned Kingham to Triple-A this season.
"It's just tough. You just try to have an honest conversation with him and you share with him what's gone well, what he's in control of, how we're best served moving forward and be transparent with the situation here," manager Clint Hurdle said. "We've got five starters in place that we're going to give the ball to and see where that takes us, knowing that he's completely capable and available to step in at any time and pick up and go. He's done a very professional job of that from the beginning of the season until now."
Kang moving up
Infielder Jungho Kang will take another step toward the big leagues when he joins Indianapolis on Monday. Kang, who is on the Pirates' restricted list as he works his way back into game shape, hit .417 with three home runs and more walks (six) than strikeouts (three) in seven games for Class A Advanced Bradenton.