Family gives Evans a lift... literally

Pirates turn baserunning from weakness to strength

April 11th, 2021

With opportunity has come results for this season. The utility man has gotten consistent at-bats since Ke'Bryan Hayes was placed on the injured list last Sunday with left wrist inflammation.

But with consistent opportunities comes a special moment like what Evans experienced on Saturday night.

Evans took the Pirates’ lead in home runs in the sixth inning by hitting a 2-1 sinker from Dillon Maples on a rope to left-center field. The Statcast-projected 415-foot solo shot landed in the visiting bullpen at PNC Park. That’s the same spot he hit his first home run with the Pirates, when his family was unable to watch him due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

“It was through the rain. I didn't think it had a chance,” Evans said, “but I'm glad it went over the fence."

After Evans’ postgame interview with AT&T Sportsnet, his “little older bro” Michael came rushing on the field to hoist Evans up in celebration. It was fitting: Evans got “MVP” chants in the eighth inning when he came to the plate for his final at-bat.

"It was awesome,” Evans said. “After last season, having the fans there, having family in there, it was a special night, and I'm glad they were there to be a part of it."

Evans’ success has come in short amounts of playing time, but it’s come nonetheless. In 18 games with the Pirates from 2020-21, Evans has hit .371/.451/.613 with three doubles and four homers. He easily would have increased his games played total had he not sustained a fractured jaw and a concussion on Aug. 9, which ended his ‘20 season.

“Last year, before he got hurt, he had really consistent at-bats, and he's just carried on and continued,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said.

Finding consistent at-bats for Evans will not be as easy when Hayes returns from the injured list, which he can do as early as Wednesday. The good news is Evans can play any of six positions at a decent level, not counting catcher, left field (where Bryan Reynolds and Adam Frazier are the top candidates) and pitcher -- although he made one appearance in relief in Cincinnati.

“I'm preparing for every position, wherever they want to put me out there,” Evans said. “Knowing I'll get some more at-bats during Key's downtime, it's definitely confidence building me.”

Read, read, read
A lot of things had to be cleaned up entering the homestand after the Pirates were swept by the Reds last week. One of the key ones: Reads on the basepaths with the ball in play.

A bad example happened on Wednesday in Cincinnati, when Wilmer Difo lingered to potentially tag up from second on a sinking line drive to right field. It slowed up Difo, who was thrown out at the plate on a pinpoint relay by Jonathan India.

A good example came on Saturday, when Reynolds scored from second base on a ball hit by Colin Moran to shallow right field in the Pirates’ seven-run second inning. What seemed like it could be an aggressive send was actually a great read by Reynolds, who was off the bag quickly on contact.

It helps that the left fielder can turn on the burners: Reynolds reached 28.6 feet per second sprint speed and went from second to home in 6.84 seconds -- his second-fastest second-to-home time in his career.

“I just had Reynolds in the office and showed him and told him how great a job he did on it and told him Moran should buy him a bottle of wine for getting him that RBI, because he made a hell of a read,” Shelton said.

Up next
The Pirates roll on in their first homestand of the season as they welcome the Padres to PNC Park on Monday for a four-game series. Trevor Cahill will make his second start with Pittsburgh, trying to shake off a seven-run debut with the team in Cincinnati. Former Cubs ace Yu Darvish will take the hill in the opener for San Diego, with first pitch scheduled for 6:35 p.m. ET. The action will be live on AT&T Sportsnet and MLB.TV.