In 2020, Erik González got something he hadn’t gotten since the Minor Leagues: Everyday reps at shortstop.
OK, almost everyday reps. González made 36 of his starts in '20 at shortstop in the Pirates’ 60-game season, with Kevin Newman drawing 22. But for the Dominican shortstop, that’s the most he’s had in a season in his five-year Major League career.
Though his results at the plate weren’t great -- a .227 batting average with a .614 OPS -- González believes the experience allowed him to work through some things in the season that he otherwise might not have gotten the reps for.
“When you play every day, it’s easy to make adjustments,” González said through interpreter Mike Gonzalez. “When you play every day, it’s easy to take a hold of how you feel, what’s going on, situations and what to continue to work on.”
With Adam Frazier still in the fold as the primary second baseman despite trade rumors this offseason and Newman raking in Spring Training, it may be harder for González to come by regular reps at one position this season. The Pirates extending González a one-year deal in the offseason signals they intend to use him a good bit, and when Frazier needs a day off, Newman can easily slide over as he did last season.
“I don’t know if a straight platoon is something we can do,” manager Derek Shelton said of González and Newman, “but I think both guys will get reps there. The difference between who starts Opening Day and who starts two or three days later [is small].”
However, González said he isn’t allowing the position battle to be “too involved in my mindset.” He’s just happy to be healthy and swinging the bat well as he ramps up for the regular season and his opportunity for even more consistent reps.
“At the end of the day, it’s [about] whatever helps the team,” he said, “and I’m just here ready to compete and ready to continue helping this team win."
• Liover Peguero, the Pirates’ No. 5 prospect, per MLB Pipeline, roped a double and a single in his first start this spring during the Pirates’ 10-9 loss to the Orioles on Thursday. The 20-year-old figures to be a potential shortstop of the future for the team, though he’s a couple of steps away at the moment and would be blocked out by Newman and González for now.
“I was just trying to be myself, try to put the ball in play and not try to do too much,” Peguero said. “It was good. I’m not going to lie, it feels really good.”
• Todd Frazier, who was scratched on Sunday with lower back tightness, started at first base on Thursday. He went 2-for-3 with a double, an infield single and a walk.
“I think the thing that is important to see out of him today is just being healthy and moving around,” Shelton said before the game. “He took swings the other day, he did baseball activities just to get him on the field, and watching and maintaining his health, and then we'll kind of go from there.”
• Two of the Pirates’ expected bullpen pieces struggled on Thursday, allowing a pair of crucial homers. Richard Rodríguez, who is a closing candidate, served up a three-run homer to Ryan Mountcastle in the second inning. Two innings later, Michael Feliz gave up a three-run jack of his own to Austin Hays to break the 6-6 tie.
Tyler Anderson will face Detroit for the second time in a row on Friday, when the Pirates host the Tigers at LECOM Park for a 1:05 p.m. ET game. Anderson had his strongest start of the spring vs. the Tigers on Saturday, when he limited them to two hits and one run over five innings. Trevor Cahill, Duane Underwood Jr., Kyle Crick and Sam Howard are expected to pitch for Pittsburgh in relief. Matthew Boyd will go for Detroit, and the game will be broadcast live on AT&T Sportsnet and MLB.TV.