The Pirates took their first loss of the season against the Cubs, 5-1, at Wrigley Field on Saturday, but they may have also lost a young star player in the short term.
Ke'Bryan Hayes was pulled from Saturday’s game in the third inning with left wrist discomfort, the Pirates announced. MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported later in the evening that X-rays on Hayes' wrist came back negative, though the Pirates didn't confirm that news.
After fouling off a pitch from Cubs starter Jake Arrieta in the first inning, Hayes pushed the back of his left hand against his lower back then flexed it. He drew a walk to end the plate appearance and then, after flexing his wrist some more on a pickoff attempt, manager Derek Shelton and trainer Rafael Freitas came in to check on Hayes.
“From talking to him when he was out at first, he caught the knob on the swing when he turned it over,” Shelton said. “I guess the knob kinda got in his hand awkwardly.”
Hayes remained in the game and played third base in the first and second innings, but the Pirates opted to be cautious when his turn in the lineup came back around. He was replaced by Erik González in the second spot in the order.
“We kind of monitored him,” Shelton said. “The fact that he could grip his glove and play defense, we left him in there to play defense.”
Hayes scored the first run of the game on a single by Kevin Newman. It turned out to be the only run for the Pirates. They mustered just four hits against the Cubs in seven innings after his departure, sending Tyler Anderson to a loss on the mound after five innings and three runs allowed in his first start as a Pirate.
Needless to say, Hayes plays a huge role in the dynamic of the Pirates’ offense. Though he’s played only 26 Major League games, his steadiness at the plate helps even out a largely hot-and-cold heart of the order.
Even when he’s not hitting homers as he did in his first at-bat in Thursday’s Opening Day win over the Cubs, he’s doing the little things like drawing walks out of pitcher-friendly counts. Arrieta had Hayes in a 1-2 count before the rookie battled back to give the Pirates a chance to knock in a runner, which they capitalized on.
It’s the sum of these two parts -- the extra-base power and the ability to work the count -- that makes him a threat offensively to complement his Gold Glove-caliber defense and speed on the basepaths. And it’s why he’s seen as a front-runner for the National League Rookie of the Year Award.
If the injury lingers and requires a stint on the injured list, the Pirates have an experienced option to fill in for Hayes in the short term. Todd Frazier opted out of his Minor League contract with the Pirates at the end of Spring Training, but a few days later, the 10-year Major League veteran signed another Minor League deal with the club and is at the alternate training site in Pittsburgh.
If Hayes’ injury were to require only a few games out of action during this six-game stretch, Phillip Evans could easily fill in at third base, or González could continue to see reps there instead of at shortstop, where he battles with Newman for playing time. Wilmer Difo, another infield utility man like Evans, is on the taxi squad. Colin Moran could even revert back to the position he held before Hayes took over in September of 2020.
But the team is hopeful that Hayes’ injury is just a small issue that will be resolved quickly.
“First reaction was, 'I hope he’s not hurt too bad,'” second baseman Adam Frazier said. “Hopefully, a little stinger on his hand or something. Get checked out and hopefully be in there tomorrow.”