PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates acquired George Kontos in August to steady their shaky bullpen. They brought him back this season to lead a group of young relievers. He did both of those things, but his performance this season never matched his track record.Pittsburgh designated Kontos for assignment Friday to make
PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates acquired George Kontos in August to steady their shaky bullpen. They brought him back this season to lead a group of young relievers. He did both of those things, but his performance this season never matched his track record.
Pittsburgh designated Kontos for assignment Friday to make room on the roster for starter Joe Musgrove. Kontos struggled to a 5.03 ERA and 1.42 WHIP this season, losing his grip on the setup role he earned down the stretch last season.
"We wish George well moving out, because he did nothing but add value to everything he touched while he was here," manager Clint Hurdle said. "That's a hard conversation to have with a guy that has brought a lot and done some good things for us. Unfortunately the game demands execution, and right now, that level for him isn't where it's been for him at any other point in time in his career."
Kontos won two World Series rings during his 5 1/2 seasons with the Giants, who let him go in August. The Pirates quickly claimed him off waivers and gave him a high-leverage role. He delivered a 1.84 ERA and a 0.82 WHIP with 15 strikeouts in 14 2/3 innings, agreed to a $2.725 million salary for this season and returned as the eighth-inning setup man.
But Kontos' success did not carry over. His velocity dropped, his command deteriorated, and he struggled to make hitters swing and miss. He lost his setup job on May 12 and didn't pitch for a week after that. He was scored upon in five of his last six outings as a Pirate.
"Just inconsistency. I haven't really been able to get my delivery where it needed to be," Kontos said. "Just some things that weren't characteristic of myself and what I'm capable of doing."
When a player's contract is designated for assignment -- often abbreviated "DFA" -- that player is immediately removed from his club's 40-man roster, and 25-man roster if he was on that as well. Within seven days of the transaction (it was previously 10 days), the player must either be traded, released or placed on irrevocable outright waivers.
Kontos, 32, hopes to catch on with another team. Despite giving up a run in his last outing Tuesday, he felt better as he struck out two Reds hitters.
"I haven't forgotten how to play baseball. I'm still a competitor. I still have a lot left in this game," he said. "I would imagine, hopefully, somebody takes a shot on a guy who's been around a little bit and knows how to pitch and has had, in my opinion, quite a bit of success in the big leagues."
Kontos said he is proud of the success young relievers like Tyler Glasnow, Michael Feliz and Edgar Santana have enjoyed and hopes he played a part in their development. The Pirates considered Kontos' influence and leadership as they evaluated their options, Hurdle said, but ultimately decided to keep their more effective pitchers and cut ties with Kontos.
"There's times when you can say, 'Yeah, guys got [Minor League] options.' We've got guys that are pitching well," Hurdle said. "We'd prefer to stick with the men that are pitching well and finding outs and keeping people off the plate."
Marte may be ready
Starling Marte (right oblique strain) ran the bases, took early batting practice and went through a full pregame workout Friday afternoon. The Pirates may activate their star center fielder, depending on how he feels Saturday, the first day he is eligible to return from the disabled list.
Marte's return will force the Pirates to make another tough roster move. Austin Meadows, who took Marte's spot, entered Friday with 11 hits and three homers in his first six games. Will the hot-hitting prospect go back to Triple-A when Marte is activated?
"We will find out tomorrow," Hurdle said. "We'll have another decision to make."
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.