Dad strength: Gamel homers in last at-bat before daughter’s birth

March 22nd, 2022

BRADENTON, Fla. -- A home run in the afternoon. A newborn baby in the evening. For Ben Gamel, there will be few days more memorable than this one.

“Always feels good to hit homers, but it’s a little more special today, for sure,” Gamel said.

Gamel and his wife, Lauren, are expected to welcome their first child, Delilah, into the world Tuesday evening in Jacksonville, but not before the soon-to-be father smacked an opposite-field home run in his second plate appearance of the the Pirates' Grapefruit League game against the Orioles. In what was perfect timing, the Pirates’ broadcast gave a shoutout to Lauren before Ben hit a home run just seconds later.

“We all knew he was getting out of here today to have his baby,” pitcher JT Brubaker said. “For him to hit that home run and then get out right afterwards, that’s pretty cool. I'm sure he's going to enjoy that, and he's going to enjoy his firstborn even more.”

Immediately following his second home run of Spring Training, Gamel, who also had a single, bolted to the clubhouse, quickly gathered his bearings and hit the road. When asked why he decided to play on his firstborn's due date, Gamel said that the child wasn’t expected to be born until around 6 p.m. and he didn’t want to waste an opportunity to play.

“If you’re going to have a baby, might as well hit a homer and swing the bat well,” manager Derek Shelton said.

Gamel joked that to get to Jacksonville, which is about four hours away from Bradenton, he would avoid the typically packed I-4 at all costs.

“I’m going to hit 301, probably go 275 to 301, pick up I-10, and the hospital is right off I-10,” Gamel said.

Pirates announce first round of cuts

The Pirates announced their first wave of roster cuts, reducing their roster from 71 to 53 players. Most notably, outfielder Travis Swaggerty, who is experiencing left shoulder soreness that has delayed his throwing progression, per the team, was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis.

Per Shelton, Swaggerty can still hit at the moment, but there aren't many plate appearances in Spring Training games to go around at the DH spot. Shelton projects that Swaggerty will be ready for Opening Day.

Along with Swaggerty, INF Ji-hwan Bae, C Carter Bins, RHP Cody Bolton, RHP Mike Burrows, C Henry Davis, RHP Adrian Florencio, OF Matt Fraizer, INF Nick Gonzales, RHP Kyle Nicolas, RHP Carmen Mlodzinski, RHP Quinn Priester, C Endy Rodriguez, RHP Tahnaj Thomas and INF Jared Triolo were reassigned to Minor League camp.

INF Tucupita Marcano, INF Liover Pequero and OF Jack Suwinski have been optioned to Indianapolis.

Of the six Pirates prospects who were listed in MLB Pipeline’s top 100, only Oneil Cruz (No. 26) and Roansy Contreras (No. 71) remain in Major League camp.

Worth noting

• Chris Stratton and the Pirates have agreed to a salary of $2.7 million and will avoid arbitration, per a source.

Stratton, 31, appeared in 68 games for the Pirates last season, logging a 3.63 ERA and 3.76 FIP across 79 1/3 innings.

• Greg Allen put together a solid day at the plate, even without registering a hit. In addition to drawing a walk and getting hit by a pitch, Allen grinded out a nine-pitch plate appearance that ended in a groundout.

“The first impression of watching all the work that he’s done on his swing over the last year and a half has really resonated,” Shelton said. “He really looks on balance.”

• Cole Tucker has started three games so far this spring, each of which has come at a different position: shortstop, second base and right field. Tucker has spent time at all three positions with the Pirates and is a candidate to start at second base or right field come Opening Day.

• Brubaker was sharp in his first outing of the spring, throwing two scoreless innings with three strikeouts. The 28-year-old, who had a 5.36 ERA across 24 starts last season, is one of several candidates for the starting rotation.