Notes: Banda joins bullpen; Gamel scratched

August 6th, 2021

CINCINNATI -- was barely in the process of packing up his stuff in Syracuse, the home of his former Mets’ Triple-A affiliate, and shipping it to his family home when the call came from his agent.

The left-handed reliever figured he could be claimed off waivers after New York designated him for assignment on Saturday. But it happened maybe a little more quickly than he had expected; two days later, the Pirates took him. Thursday night, Banda debuted for Pittsburgh with a clean inning, striking out Reds star Joey Votto in the Pirates' 7-4 loss at Great American Ball Park.

“I was obviously excited I didn’t get down too far in the waiver [wire],” Banda told before the game. “A team just grabbed me right when I entered waivers, so it was great. It’s good to feel like you’re wanted, but still I’ve got a job to do.”

The Mets didn’t have much of an opportunity to give Banda reps at the Major League level, as he made only five appearances and posted a 7.36 ERA. In three relief appearances at Triple-A Syracuse, he recorded a 5.23 ERA with 10 strikeouts in 10 1/3 innings.

Even with some mixed results in the run prevention department this season, the Pirates activated Banda on Wednesday and intend to use him sooner than later.

“He’s a veteran left-handed multi-inning guy that we’re going to add to our bullpen,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said, “so I’m definitely very interested and excited to watch him pitch.”

Banda’s new home feels a bit like home from the get-go, as he joins his former D-backs organization mate Michael Perez. The two spent 2014-17 together, traveling from affiliate to affiliate.

“Michael is a good, close friend of mine,” said Banda, 27. “His family knows my family, my family knows his. He was one of the guys that I’ve watched from the Pirates while he was on TV and stuff like that. Just come across a game when he’s playing, I’d stop and watch.”

The baseball world had their eyes on Banda on July 26, when he and Aaron Loup showed up to their postgame presser with a can of beer each. Banda provided an instant gem and got some serious traction on Twitter: “Long day at work. Men like to have beer."

That’s part of the fun side of the game Banda said he tries to bring to the field every day, and he said he can already feel that from his teammates inside the Pirates’ clubhouse, too.

“I’m still feeling the same vibes with this team,” Banda said, referencing his positive experience with the Mets. “Guys have welcomed me with open arms. We’ve had dinners already. It’s just been a great time, really, the past couple of days.”

The situation in Pittsburgh is much different from New York. The Mets were in first place in the National League East when Banda was DFA'd, and now he joins a Pirates team firmly in last place in the NL Central. But he knows the opportunity exists here to get MLB reps in a way he was unlikely to with the Mets.

“I’m a full believer in earning those opportunities, and I’ve got to take those opportunities one at a time,” Banda said.

Gamel scratched
was slated to play left field for the Pirates in their series opener vs. the Reds on Thursday, but he was scratched shortly after the initial lineup was revealed due to hamstring tightness.

“Out of a little bit of an abundance of caution, we decided to get him out today,” Shelton said.

The super-versatile Hoy Park, who was slated to play his fourth position in his first week with the Pirates at second base, moved to left field in Gamel’s place. For the moment, Gamel's injury is day to day.