Shelton: Hayes' sunflower seed incident 'an outlier'

September 18th, 2022

NEW YORK -- Prior to Saturday’s game against the Mets, third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes and manager Derek Shelton addressed the sunflower seed incident that gained traction the previous night.

Following the Pirates’ 4-3 loss to the Mets on Friday, SNY’s Todd Zeile pointed out that Hayes reached into his pocket to eat sunflower seeds in the middle of a play as Eduardo Escobar rounded third on Tomás Nido’s third-inning single. Shelton, who saw the sequence last night, described the decision as an outlier.

“We talked to him about it, dealt with it, and now we move on,” Shelton said prior to the Pirates’ 5-1 loss to the Mets on Saturday night at Citi Field.

“I just went to my pocket and got seeds,” Hayes said. “Nothing really to it other than that.”

Hayes did not receive any disciplinary action as a result of the incident, starting at third base and batting fifth on Saturday, but Shelton did address that Hayes could have positioned himself better during the play.

“The one thing I will share about our conversation is that in that play, he should be closer to third base, and we talked about that,” Shelton said. “If you watched Ke’Bryan 99 percent of the time, he’s in the right place defensively. This, again, was an outlier play. We talked about where he should have been. He took ownership of it.”

Hayes, who entered play on Saturday with the second-most defensive runs saved in all of baseball (19), expressed indifference when asked about the criticism he has received. However, he agreed that some of the criticism has been a product of his status as a franchise cornerstone and noted that he will be more mindful going forward.

In addition to pointing out the sequence, Zeile quipped at the end of the segment, “That’s September baseball when you’re in the Pittsburgh Pirate organization right now.” Shelton addressed those comments as well, pointing out that the Pirates consistently play hard and with effort.

“The people that watch us play every night know that our effort is never anything that comes into question. We’ve had maybe three times all year long where effort has come into question, and we’ve dealt with it,” Shelton said. “People that don’t watch us play on a nightly basis, I can understand how you may have an opinion on that, but the opinion that matters to me is in our clubhouse and within our group."

Regarding Hayes' effort specifically, Shelton recalled a sequence from Friday's game. In the fifth, Hayes sprinted out of the box after hitting a grounder at, coincidentally, Escobar. That hustle resulted in an errant throw from Escobar, allowing Hayes to reach on the error. Two batters later, Hayes scored on Michael Chavis’ infield single.

"That's Pirates baseball in September," Shelton said. "I think the important thing is that the people that watch us every night know the effort we give. I think it speaks for itself."