Bucs' Opening Day outfield jumbled by injuries
Chisenhall sent to 10-day injured list, Marte scratched with migraine
CINCINNATI -- The season hadn’t even begun when the Pirates set out to replace their replacement in right field. Then they had to come up with a Plan B in center field, too.
After being hit by a pitch on Monday in Houston, Lonnie Chisenhall was placed on the 10-day injured list on Thursday with a fractured right index finger. The Pirates aren’t providing a timetable for his return, but director of sports medicine Todd Tomczyk said Chisenhall will be shut down for at least 10 days.
The Pirates signed Chisenhall in November to serve as their starting right fielder while Gregory Polanco finishes his recovery from September shoulder surgery. Without Chisenhall, Pittsburgh will use Melky Cabrera, Pablo Reyes and JB Shuck in right field. Cabrera got the first crack at it Thursday, starting in right field behind Jameson Taillon against the Reds in the Pirates' 5-3 loss.
“We’ve got three men that can go out there and take it,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “We’ve got some options.”
Shuck was called into action in center field on Thursday, however, as Starling Marte was scratched less than an hour before first pitch due to a migraine headache. Shuck, a non-roster invitee, made the Opening Day roster as a result of Chisenhall’s injury.
When Marte returns to the lineup, Hurdle can rotate Cabrera, Reyes and Shuck in right field or start the switch-hitting Cabrera before deploying Shuck or Reyes as a late-game pinch-runner or defensive replacement.
Chisenhall was with the team in Cincinnati for Opening Day. He will be re-examined in about a week, Tomczyk said. Typically, players with fractured fingers miss about four to six weeks.
“To put a general outline on Lonnie right now is not fair to him, not fair to the injury. Different bones heal different ways,” Tomczyk said. “There are different degrees and different severities of the breaks. To put four to six weeks, I think, would be inaccurate to put that on Lonnie or this particular injury.”
The 31-year-old Shuck is a career .244/.294/.316 hitter in 433 Major League games. He feels he is ready to take a step forward, however, after implementing changes to his swing over the last year.
“You can’t just slap a ball in the six-hole and expect it to be a hit. Those guys will go get it and make those plays consistently now. I’ve got to change a little bit,” Shuck said this spring. “I’ve got to learn how to hit behind the ball and drive it into gaps and hit it over the infielder’s head and try to get more consistent with that.”
The Pirates were impressed by Shuck’s performance in Spring Training, when he hit .372 with a .971 OPS in 20 games, as well as his all-out style of play.
“I hear conversations from time to time that people can’t recreate themselves. I disagree,” Hurdle said. “I’ve seen players make adjustments as they’ve gotten older to do some things. We’ll see how this plays out. … He earned the opportunity to continue to stay in the hunt through Spring Training.”
• Right-hander Jordan Lyles began the season on the 10-day injured list due to right side discomfort, but he is symptom-free, Tomczyk said. Lyles was set back by cramping in his right side late in Spring Training, so he still needs to make a six-inning/100-pitch start before he is cleared to join Pittsburgh’s rotation.
Lyles is scheduled to pitch a six-inning simulated game later this week, Tomczyk said, and his next step after that is “to be determined.” If everything goes well, Lyles would be on track to make his Pirates debut next week.
• Polanco (shoulder) has played in three Triple-A games in Florida, and his shoulder has responded well. His return date remains unclear.
• Catcher Elias Díaz (virus) is scheduled to begin hitting in games next week, Tomczyk said. Diaz has been catching bullpens as part of his modified spring program, but he has not progressed to catching in games.
• Corner infielder/outfielder José Osuna (lower neck discomfort) is not participating in baseball activities. Right-hander Dovydas Neverauskas (left oblique strain) is throwing off the slope of the mound at the Pirate City complex.