PITTSBURGH -- Even with rosters expanded to 40 players this month, the Pirates found themselves short-handed over the weekend at Wrigley Field. To rectify that, the Bucs made a series of roster moves before Tuesday’s series opener against the Mariners.
The Pirates added infielder Corban Joseph after claiming him off waivers from the Giants on Monday. They also selected the contract of the versatile Jake Elmore, who had an excellent season with Triple-A Indianapolis. Both players reported to PNC Park on Tuesday, sharing a locker in the Pirates’ clubhouse.
“I don’t see any immediate return to play,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said on Tuesday afternoon. “Those three guys you probably won’t see tonight, for sure.”
Without those three available to hit, starting pitcher Steven Brault made a pair of pinch-hit appearances after Pittsburgh’s starters were knocked out early on Saturday and Sunday, going 1-for-2.
“I’ll have an argument with you if you tell me he wasn’t one of our better options. His numbers speak for themselves off the bench,” Hurdle said, smiling. “We need some backup. We need some depth. We’ve got a couple other guys that are working through things that don’t want you to know they’re working through things, that are still posting up and playing. But we’ve got three guys that aren’t available to play.”
The Pirates lost another player on Tuesday, but for a happier reason: Super-utility man Pablo Reyes left the team to be with his wife, who gave birth to the couple’s first child. Without Marte or Reyes, and with Bryan Reynolds getting what Hurdle called a “much-needed” day off, infielder Erik González started the series opener against Seattle in center field.
It was González’s first Major League start in center and his professional appearance there since 2016.
Joseph spent time in the Majors with the A’s and Giants this season, the Orioles last year and the Yankees in '13. In 19 games for the Bay Area big league clubs, Joseph went 8-for-53 (.151) with a homer and seven RBIs. The Giants designated Joseph for assignment on Saturday.
He played most of this season for Triple-A Las Vegas, where he hit .371/.421/.585 with 13 homers in 97 games. He has experience around the infield, working mostly at first, second and third base. He was also the Pirates’ second waiver claim from the Giants in a four-day span, as they also claimed left-hander Williams Jerez on Friday.
This is Elmore’s second stint with the Pirates. The 32-year-old had one hit in 20 at-bats over 11 games for Pittsburgh in May. He shined in Triple-A, however, batting .322 with an .842 OPS while playing five different positions (second, third, shortstop, left and right field).
Without Vázquez, setup man Keone Kela could pitch in some save situations during the regular season's final two weeks. The right-hander has plenty of experience in the role, as he recorded 27 saves during his four seasons with the Rangers.
“He’s done it,” Hurdle said, “and he’s done it well.”
Hurdle added that he had a brief conversation with Kela after the news about Vázquez broke on Tuesday, and he planned to talk more with the reliever soon. Kela’s season has been interrupted by injuries and suspensions, but he’s been their most dominant pitcher since his return in late July.
Kela has pitched everywhere from the sixth to the ninth inning this season, and Hurdle indicated that Kela may continue to pitch before the ninth if it’s deemed the highest-leverage situation. If Kela is used that way, the Pirates would likely turn to Richard Rodriguez, Francisco Liriano or Michael Feliz to finish the game.
The Pirates also added another long relief arm on Tuesday, reinstating right-hander Chris Stratton (right side inflammation) from the 10-day injured list.