NEW YORK -- The Pirates shook up their bench on Friday, swapping out one pair of infielders for another as they recalled Max Moroff and Phil Gosselin from Triple-A Indianapolis.Rookie infielder Alen Hanson, who was once one of Pittsburgh's top prospects, was designated for assignment before the Pirates' series opener
NEW YORK -- The Pirates shook up their bench on Friday, swapping out one pair of infielders for another as they recalled Max Moroff and Phil Gosselin from Triple-A Indianapolis.
Rookie infielder Alen Hanson, who was once one of Pittsburgh's top prospects, was designated for assignment before the Pirates' series opener against the Mets on Friday at Citi Field. The Bucs also optioned infielder Mpho' Ngoepe to Triple-A.
The moves were designed to add more offensive potential to an inexperienced bench that had been angled toward speed and defense, recently thrusting Ngoepe and backup catcher Elias Diaz into key pinch-hit situations.
Hanson struggled in limited playing time, posting a slash line of .193/.220/.263 over 59 plate appearances. His speed, his best tool, did not translate into stolen bases; he had two and was caught stealing once. The 24-year-old started nine games at second base and played a handful of innings at shortstop, third base and right field.
Hanson has been plagued by inconsistency since his breakout 2012 campaign with Class A West Virginia. That trait, not ideal when paired with sparse playing time, followed him to the big leagues.
"We've tried to help him make some marginal gains to become a more consistent player here," manager Clint Hurdle said. "We didn't see enough right now to continue in the vein we were in with him."
Considering his prospect pedigree, it's possible another club will claim or attempt to trade for Hanson. He is out of Minor League options, so the Pirates cannot send him to Triple-A unless he clears waivers.
"We still haven't seen the tools he has come together," Hurdle said. "The playing time probably hasn't been conducive for him. However, that's going to be the role that right now we feel he's best suited to fit. Maybe somebody else will have some interest. If not, waivers could play in and somebody could grab him. If not, he'll got back to Indy and continue to work."
Ngoepe made history in April, becoming the first African-born player to reach the Majors. He displayed the remarkable defensive skills that propelled him through the Minors and started off strong at the plate. But Ngoepe struck out 26 times in 63 plate appearances and saw his slash line fall to .222/.323/.296.
"A lot of things he could only wonder about before, he now has felt and touched. And he had a little success," Hurdle said. "Obviously, in the field, that's not going to be a problem, catching the ball and making plays. The other part of it, we'll see what kind of identity he can establish offensively."
Gosselin struggled at the plate, batting .138 with a .339 OPS, and in the field in his first stint with the Pirates earlier this season. He turned things around in Triple-A, shaking off bad mechanical habits at the plate and batting .310/.337/.405 while committing only one error (at shortstop) in 22 games.
"Nobody wants to get sent down, but I kind of needed it," Gosselin said. "Needed to go down there and reset and get back to the player I know I can be."
Strikeouts remain an issue for Moroff, 24, as he has punched out 48 times in 192 plate appearances in the Minors. But he has seen a dramatic increase in power to go along with his typically high on-base percentage. The switch-hitter batted .269/.385/.569 and slugged a career-high 13 homers in 42 games for Indianapolis.
"If someone would've told me I'd have 13 home runs right now at this point of the season, I probably would have said they were crazy," Moroff said. "They're just going out. I'm not trying to do it. It's pretty awesome."
The Pirates removed catcher Francisco Cervelli from their starting lineup about 25 minutes before first pitch Friday night due to an unspecified illness. The club announced that Cervelli would be treated and monitored to determine his availability off the bench.
Diaz was inserted into the starting lineup, hitting eighth and catching starter Gerrit Cole. Shortstop Jordy Mercer was bumped up a spot to bat seventh.
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast.