Ke'Bryan Hayes is still in the very early stages of his career, so at this point, it’s fair to assume what he does on the field will attract more attention than anything having to do with his contract.
But the two worlds did collide, slightly, on Wednesday, with a report from MLB Network insider Jon Heyman that the Pirates made an extension offer to the 24-year-old third baseman. The talks had “no traction,” a categorization that a source confirmed to MLB.com.
Though the discussion was minimal, the significant part is that the Pirates made the overture and expressed interest in locking up a player who has played less than a month in the big leagues. Could this be a precursor for a more in-depth conversation a year or two down the road?
The Pirates are aware of what a special talent they have in Hayes, who’s on track as a leading National League Rookie of the Year Award candidate in 2021. Given what he did last year in the truncated ‘20 season, and how much he’s blistering the ball this spring, he has a good shot to win it.
Including his 2-for-3 performance in the Pirates’ 6-3 win over the Braves Wednesday, Hayes is hitting .450 for the spring, with a 1.263 OPS. He’s on a seven-game hitting streak and has hit safely in 12 of 13 games overall.
Yes, it’s “only” Spring Training and teams are careful not to put too much emphasis on spring numbers and wins and losses. So let’s keep it simple: Hayes looks ready -- really, really ready -- for Opening Day.
“You never really see him get out of his comfort zone and try to do too much,” manager Derek Shelton said. “He stays really on the right-center, right side of the field, and when he does have a situation to pull the ball, he stays under control with his swings. If you watch him on a day-to-day basis, you'd be shocked that this guy's played 24 games in the big leagues.”
Brubaker builds innings
At this point in the spring, starting pitchers are looking for length, endurance and results, and JT Brubaker, a favorite to win a spot in the Bucs' rotation, got all three in his outing against the Braves.
Brubaker is the first Pirates pitcher to finish five innings this spring. The right-hander yielded three runs on three hits and struck out six in one of the better of his four Grapefruit League starts, an encouraging development with Opening Day on the horizon.
“Once you go five [innings] multiple times, it makes it easier to go back out for the sixth, back out for the seventh,” Brubaker said. “So I think that the big key is not feeling gassed through five, especially the first five, and then [the] next five is going to be even better, just easier on the body, you're not going to feel as tired.”
Braves right fielder Austin Riley got to Brubaker twice, first with a 442-foot homer on a breaking ball high in the zone that sailed over the batter’s eye in the first inning, and then with a two-run shot in the fourth. Brubaker yielded only one other hit -- a leadoff double to Abraham Almonte in the fifth.
“Being able to utilize all my pitches is the big key factor, making sure I throw them for strikes and just out of the zone when needed is the big building point,” Brubaker said.
In his postgame Zoom press conference, Shelton brought attention to the T-shirt he was wearing and the significance of the design.
The T-shirt included a logo of Pace Center for Girls, an organization that provides girls and young women an opportunity for a better future through education, counseling, training and advocacy.
“Anytime we're celebrating young women, it's very cool,” Shelton said. “I have two daughters, so I love this one. Pretty cool. I'll rock this one.”
The Pirates made a series of cuts on Wednesday. Right-handers Sean Poppen and Miguel Yajure and infielder Cole Tucker were optioned, while left-hander Braeden Ogle, infielder Will Craig, outfielders Troy Stokes Jr. and Hunter Owen and catchers Joe Hudson and Andrew Susac were reassigned to Minor League camp.
The Pirates have 38 active players remaining in Major League camp (including the injured Steven Brault): 22 pitchers, three catchers, eight infielders and five outfielders.
The Pirates will play their final night game on Thursday when they meet the Orioles in Sarasota at 6:05 p.m. ET. Right-hander Poppen will start for the Bucs, while the O’s will counter with lefty Keegan Akin.