GM: Hayes likely to return to Bucs this week

May 30th, 2021

PITTSBURGH -- Pirates general manager Ben Cherington expects to make his return on Thursday (when he's eligible to come off the 60-day IL), barring something unforeseen.

Cherington provided the update on his Sunday radio show on 93.7 The Fan after speaking with reporters earlier in the morning about how Hayes’ rehab has gone.

Hayes, out since April 4 with a left wrist injury, began his rehab assignment with Triple-A Indianapolis on May 22, and the No. 9 prospect in baseball has looked like his usual self. He’s slugged two homers and has two doubles and two walks in six games, and he made a highlight-reel grab in foul ground among the tough grabs that he makes look routine with his exceptional defense.

Cherington and the Pirates’ baseball operations team have taken notice of what Hayes has been able to accomplish with Indianapolis. But after the third baseman had a setback swinging the bat earlier in May, they wanted to be cautious with his journey back to the Majors, where he recorded a 1.124 OPS in 24 games last season.

“Once we got as far out from the injury as we have, and it’s going to be two months or whatever, we just felt like we really needed to have almost a Spring Training progression,” Cherington said. “The last thing we wanted to do was sort of rush him back and then something else happens because his body was just not ready.”

Hayes is one of three everyday infield options on the injured list alongside Colin Moran (left groin) and Phillip Evans (right hamstring). Cherington told reporters that rehab assignments for those two are “imminent” and could begin while the team is on the road Monday and Tuesday in Kansas City.

With Cherington saying Chad Kuhl is expected to come off the injured list to start Monday, the Pirates are slowly returning to full health. That will lead to some tough roster decisions, such as designating Ildemaro Vargas for assignment on Sunday. A wave of options or designations is likely to happen in the coming weeks, though Cherington said that in the process of weathering these injuries, the Bucs have learned a lot about where their organization stands at the Triple-A and Major League level.

“I'm not breaking any news here -- we're just not deep enough yet,” Cherington said. “We need more players so that when we do have injuries, [we're prepared]. The good teams have injuries, too, and the good teams have someone else sliding in where you might back up a little bit in performance. That's what we need to get to -- just more depth."