Notes: Hayes begins rehab; Cahill (calf) to IL

No timeline for top prospect's return to Majors; Crick returns from triceps injury

May 22nd, 2021

The countdown is finally over for 's return to game action.

The No. 9 prospect in baseball will begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Indianapolis on Saturday in their game against the St. Paul Saints.

“Today is the first step to him rejoining us,” manager Derek Shelton said. “He’s worked really hard to get there, and I look forward to seeing the results of it.”

Hayes, who is on the 60-day injured list with a left wrist strain, is not eligible to rejoin the Pirates until June 3, so he’ll have plenty of games to get at-bats and get back up to speed. Shelton said the plan is to have him start by playing part of a game Saturday and see how he recovers. There is no set number of days the Pirates have laid out; though he is eligible for activation on June 3, Hayes can spend up to 20 days on a rehab assignment.

“We have a progression lined out, but, as with all progressions, it’s in pencil,” Shelton said. “We’ll talk to him on a daily basis and see where he's at.”

The last game Hayes played in was the Pirates’ second game of the season against the Cubs on April 3 in Chicago. Therefore, the early stages of his rehab will be as much about getting his body into game shape as how his swing or glove looks.

Cole Tucker, who was recalled on Friday, is close friends with Hayes, and he understands how meaningful it is for Hayes to get back into games.

“I know the first two months of this season haven’t gone how he or anyone pictured, but he’s in a good spot and he’s in a good headspace,” Tucker said. “I’m excited for him to be back.”

Cahill to IL
The Pirates placed Trevor Cahill on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to Wednesday, with a left calf strain. Kyle Crick was reinstated from the injured list in a corresponding move.

The right-hander sustained the strain while pitching in the Pirates’ 8-5 loss on Wednesday to the Cardinals. Cahill was removed mid-at-bat facing Jack Flaherty with the bases loaded and no outs in the second inning. He was examined Friday and stood in the dugout with the team during the game, but the issue continued to linger.

“We hadn’t seen a ton of improvement with it, so we decided to put him on the IL and give him a chance to get it right,” Shelton said.

Cahill was scheduled to start Tuesday to begin a series against the Cubs at PNC Park. Shelton said the team has not decided how to fill that spot. They could bring up a player from Triple-A, but it’s worth noting that with an off-day on Monday, the Pirates’ rotation could be pushed up a day and the starters would still pitch on four days’ rest.

Crick was placed on the IL with a right triceps strain after an uncharacteristic outing on May 9, when he recorded one out while allowing two runs after 11 consecutive scoreless appearances to begin the season.

“His live BP the other day was really good, as were his bullpens,” Shelton said. “... I look forward to him bouncing back as the same guy.”

Difo’s first pitching appearance
Wilmer Difo entered in the eighth inning of the Pirates’ 20-1 loss to the Braves on Friday, marking his first Major League pitching appearance. In the process, Difo made history, though maybe not in the way he wanted.

The Pirates’ utility man became the first position player since 1901 to give up eight or more runs in a one-inning appearance. The last time a true position (not two-way) player gave up eight or more runs was Hank Leiber with nine runs allowed in a nine-inning performance -- the only outing of his MLB career -- on Sept. 25, 1942.

“I think [catcher Jacob Stallings] summed it up best: Difo just didn’t have his best stuff tonight,” Shelton said with a laugh.

Difo began the outing by pitching 85-88 mph darts to the Braves’ batters, which they feasted on. Pitching coach Oscar Marin actually made a mound visit with Difo, as the Pirates tried to get him to throw slower. He obliged, albeit barely, throwing his final pitches closer to 80 mph.

Earlier this week, a controversy was raised on social media when Yermín Mercedes homered on a 3-0 pitch from position player Willians Astudillo in a game between the White Sox and the Twins. That specific scenario didn’t arise on Friday, but the Braves slugged and slugged off Difo, including a first-pitch grand slam by Ehire Adrianza.

Shelton had no problem with any of it.

“They have to swing. He’s going to throw it on the plate,” Shelton said. “You have to respect the game. You have to respect your at-bats. I didn’t expect them to go up there and just take. They shouldn’t do that. No one should do that.”