Pirates left fielder Bryan Reynolds was placed on the paternity list before Sunday’s game against the Brewers at Miller Park.
Reynolds informed Pirates manager Derek Shelton around 5 a.m. that he needed to go on paternity leave to be with his wife, Blair. Reynolds announced in March that they were expecting their first child, a boy, in September.
Under normal circumstances, clubs have been avoiding commercial travel during the coronavirus pandemic. But the Pirates made an exception for this situation, permitting Reynolds to fly home.
“When you’re dealing with kids and being there for a moment of your life, we have to be a little more lenient,” Shelton said. “We’d like him to get there for the birth.”
Reynolds can be on the paternity list for three days, and if he needs to spend more time away from the club, they can move him to the restricted list. Whenever he returns, he’ll have to clear the COVID-19 protocol before rejoining the team.
With Reynolds heading home and Gregory Polanco starting at designated hitter, Shelton's lineup card on Sunday had regular second baseman Adam Frazier in left, rookie Jason Martin in center and Cole Tucker in right field.
To replace Reynolds on the active roster, the Pirates recalled first baseman Will Craig. Pittsburgh optioned Craig to the alternate training site in Altoona, Pa., on Saturday, making room for relievers Kyle Crick and Carson Fulmer, but immediately called him back to provide depth on the bench. Craig made his Major League debut on Thursday, going 0-for-3 and starting at first base in a win against St. Louis.
The Pirates could have further reinforcements coming soon, as they are waiting for recently claimed outfielder Anthony Alford and lefty reliever Austin Davis to clear the necessary COVID-19 testing before they can be activated.
“Once they’re through, then we’ll get ‘em going,” Shelton said.
Alford and Tucker will likely get the majority of the Pirates’ starts in center field the rest of the season. Shelton and general manager Ben Cherington are familiar with Alford, a former top prospect, based on their time in Toronto. Shelton spoke highly of the 26-year-old’s ability and makeup, noting that he could develop into a baserunning threat and better hitter than he was in short stints with the Blue Jays.
“There are definitely some things offensively we can work on, some things, before we acquired him, we identified,” Shelton said. “The fact that I do have a little bit of history with him, [hitting coach Rick Eckstein] and I have already started to talk about it a little bit. It’s an electric body. He hits the ball hard. … I think we’re excited to get him in with our group and see how it plays out."
Musgrove on the mend
The Pirates have Chad Kuhl, Derek Holland and JT Brubaker listed to start against the Cubs at PNC Park next week, but there’s a chance they could get Opening Day starter Joe Musgrove back in the mix soon.
Musgrove, who is on the 10-day injured list due to right triceps inflammation, pitched a live batting practice session in Altoona on Thursday. By all accounts, Musgrove pitched well.
Rather than having him build up his pitch count in simulated games, the Pirates seem inclined to get him back on their roster and let him ramp up against Major League competition. Shelton said pitching coach Oscar Marin will reevaluate Musgrove when the team returns home on Tuesday, but he didn’t deny the possibility that Musgrove’s next outing will take place in the big leagues.
“I think there’s a really good chance of that. Once we get home and Oscar gets a chance to watch him -- I know he’s seen it on video -- live, I think we’ll probably have a better indicator of that,” Shelton said. “But I would say that’s a really fair assessment.”
Right-hander Mitch Keller, who’s out due to a strained left oblique, has thrown two bullpen sessions as he works his way back. Although there’s less than a month remaining to get Keller back on the mound, Shelton said it’s still important for the former top prospect to face Major League competition.
“The mound touches are extremely important, and getting him back into game action, regardless of what it is, is extremely important not only for this year but building forward next year,” Shelton said. “Not only for his confidence of coming back on the mound and pitching this year, but just for us accruing more innings going into next year.”