PITTSBURGH -- The latest update on Pirates third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes seems to point to the National League Rookie of the Year Award contender being kept out of the lineup longer than the team hoped.
Manager Derek Shelton said Tuesday that Hayes had not yet swung the bat ahead of his earliest potential return date on Wednesday. That seems to indicate Hayes will not be in the lineup against the Padres, potentially even for Thursday’s finale, but Shelton has not ruled anything out.
“We haven’t made any decisions on what we’re doing with him,” Shelton said. “We’ll just take the health day by day.”
Hayes injured his left wrist on a swing in the Pirates’ second game of the season against the Cubs, then agitated it further while diving back to first base on a pickoff attempt from Jake Arrieta.
The extended timetable is not necessarily a surprise, though the Pirates remained optimistic that Hayes could return sooner than later. Pittsburgh has said before that it wants to have the issue fully out of the way and not risk recurring discomfort in Hayes' wrist, which is critical to his swinging and catching abilities.
“If it's not day 11, it's not day 11,” director of sports medicine Todd Tomczyk said. “We want him to feel strong. We want him to feel confident. We want him to be healthy for the majority of the season.”
In the meantime, the Pirates have been able to rely on an experienced everyday infielder in Erik González. But more impactful in the early going has been Phillip Evans, the team’s super-utility option who will play his fourth position this season -- not including pitcher -- on Tuesday, as the starting first baseman. However, five of Evans’ nine starts have come at third base.
It’s unlikely that Evans will come off the roster when Hayes returns, but the Pirates will have to get creative with how to keep his bat in the lineup while giving other players regular game reps.
“He has the ability to bounce around the field, and we’ll kind of cross that bridge when we come to it, when Key gets off [the injured list],” Shelton said regarding Evans.
Big leaguer in Minor League camp
Left-hander Steven Brault, who is on the 60-day injured list with a left arm strain in his lat muscle, still does not know when exactly he’ll resume throwing. But he’s staying busy all the while during his rehab in Bradenton, Fla.
Part of that is due to his training regimen. Though Brault has an arm injury, he’s still doing upper-body lifting exercises in addition to lower-body lifting and general conditioning. The next step for him will be working with plyo balls before he returns to fully throwing a baseball.
But Brault is also busy outside of the training and therapy room, as he’s spent time at the Pirates’ Minor League complex.
Brault knows that the pitching prospects have enough to think about when it comes to working on specific offerings. He’s not there to be a pitching coach, though he makes himself available for the Minor Leaguers to pick his brain -- including Quinn Priester, who is working to improve his changeup this season.
Brault's main goal is to help those prospects understand the mentality of a Major League pitcher, and in the process, maybe hype them up a little bit for their own journey toward the Majors.
“Do everything you can, work as hard as you can, to move up as fast as possible. Because the big leagues are so much better than the Minor Leagues,” Brault said. “That's just the truth.”
Brault’s walking a fine line. He has a very outgoing personality, but he doesn’t want to impose himself on the youngsters. However, he can see the Minor Leaguers already have a strong bond, so more than anything he really just wants to be comfortable and familiar with them.
“I almost feel like an outcast, because they know each other and they’re all 6, 7, 8 years younger than me," Brault said. "But I think I’ve developed some relationships with Minor League guys that I haven’t met before now, and they all seem really cool.
“And they’re all way bigger than me, which is really nice to see.”
A new Pirate will square off with a former Buc in Wednesday’s contest against the Padres at PNC Park. Tyler Anderson, fresh off a 5 1/3-inning outing in the home opener, will make his third start for Pittsburgh. Opposing him will be Joe Musgrove, the Pirates’ Opening Day starter in 2020, who threw a no-hitter on Friday night against the Rangers in just his second outing with San Diego. First pitch is slated for 6:35 p.m. ET, and the action will be live on AT&T SportsNet and MLB.TV.