BALTIMORE -- Due in part to the sometimes finicky nature of in-season travel, the Pirates nearly opened their three-game series in Baltimore this weekend with only one available catcher. They wound up finishing it that way, despite avoiding a sweep with their much-needed 8-1 win in Sunday’s finale at Oriole Park.
Steadied by a solid Bryse Wilson start and Ke’Bryan Hayes’ two-run homer, the Pirates also benefited from an overturned call at the plate to claim their first victory in Baltimore since 2008. They owe some of the win, too, to newly-acquired catcher José Godoy, who caught a would-be basestealer before exiting early with heat-related cramping in his team debut.
“We worked really well together,” Wilson said. “Everything I had heard about him coming in was receiving-wise, he was really good … I think he did a great job, and I enjoyed it, and obviously the results were there.”
The search for catching depth has been a theme of this season for the Pirates, who have struggled to find a mainstay behind the plate since trading starting catcher Jacob Stallings to the Marlins last November. They lost Stallings’ replacement, Roberto Pérez, to season-ending hamstring surgery in May, and have cycled through six catchers since.
Godoy became the seventh player to appear behind the plate for Pittsburgh this season, the most in the Majors and fourth-most in a single season in franchise history. The franchise single-season record is nine, set in 1914. After acquiring Godoy on waivers from the Twins on Friday, the Pirates are hopeful he can form a productive platoon with right-handed hitting rookie Jason Delay, who is hitting .333 (14-for-42) over his last 15 games.
“He’s been here for two days, and we talked a little bit yesterday about my stuff, and went over their lineup today,” Wilson said. “There was a little bit of an adjustment there but we worked together really well.”
The recent churn stems from another injury, the groin issue Tyler Heineman sustained Wednesday in Milwaukee. Heineman landed on the IL Thursday, prompting the club to promote Taylor Davis, and claim Godoy. Godoy nearly missed first pitch on his way to join the team in Baltimore, his flight held up by the same severe weather pattern that delayed the start of Friday’s opener.
“VanMeter would’ve been pacing again,” manager Derek Shelton quipped, referring to Pittsburgh’s emergency catcher. “[Godoy] wouldn’t have been here [had the game started on time]."
Two days later, Godoy made an immediate impact in his team debut, unleashing a 1.83-second pop-time to catch speedster Jorge Mateo attempting to steal second in Sunday’s fifth inning. He also drove in a run with a fielder’s choice. He’s considered day-to-day.
“He’s fine,” manager Shelton said. “We got him a bag IV and he cramped up, but he’s OK.”
Should Godoy need to miss additional time, Davis is the top candidate to step in. It’s been a whirlwind week also for the journeyman, who had his contract selected Thursday, was designated for assignment Friday, and outrighted to Triple-A and added to the Pirates’ taxi squad on Sunday (before Godoy’s injury). He’s yet to appear in a game for Pittsburgh.
With the Pirates still in evaluation mode in a lot of ways, they’ll use these final two months of the season to prioritize playing time with an eye toward 2023 and beyond. Determining whether Delay and/or Godoy fall into that bucket could go a ways towards stabilizing the club’s catching situation in the short and long-term.
“Because we have had continuous catchers coming through, a lot of the credit goes to [game planning/strategy coach] Radley [Haddad],” Shelton said. “I think the fact that we’ve dedicated a specific job to that has made that transition a lot easier this year.”