Update on Hayes; status of Tucker, Goodwin

May 1st, 2021

PITTSBURGH -- Pirates general manager Ben Cherington said Saturday that Ke’Bryan Hayes has not swung a bat yet, but there are reassuring signs in his prognosis and rehab this time around.

Hayes injured his left wrist in the Pirates’ second game of the season on a foul swing and he was placed on the injured list the next day. In that first bout with the discomfort, Cherington said that Hayes actually felt the pain in two places: in the wrist and a little higher up in his hand.

Hayes aggravated his wrist last Thursday on an awkward swing while facing high-velocity pitching in Detroit. When he returned to Pittsburgh last Friday to undergo imaging and assessments with the Pirates’ doctors in the Allegheny Health Network and hand/wrist specialist Thomas Graham, PhD, it appeared that the discomfort is no longer as widespread as before.

“From what I know, that’s gone,” Cherington said of the hand pain. “It’s really localized down into the wrist. We know there’s an injury there. There’s signs of healing, based on the imaging we’ve done. All the doctors feel very confident that this is an injury he’s going to get past with conservative care.”

Cherington said that Hayes is expected to join the Pirates on their upcoming road trip, beginning in San Diego on Monday -- though that doesn’t mean that he will necessarily be activated during that timeframe. For now, Cherington said that Hayes is throwing and doing conditioning work to stay ready for when he’s back to full health.

Tucker’s preseason process

The Pirates released the Opening Day rosters for their Minor League affiliates Saturday, and unsurprisingly, Cole Tucker will be at Triple-A to start the season.

However, his journey to Triple-A game action this season was quite different from years past. Cherington said Saturday that once Tucker learned that he’d be left off the Pirates’ Opening Day roster, the shortstop and the organization’s operations and coaching staffs came to the decision that it would be best to keep him at camp in Bradenton, Fla., to work on the offensive side of his game.

Tucker came out the gate swinging in 2019, but his bat cooled off quickly as he produced a .215/.260/.324 line with 13 doubles, three triples and three homers across 93 games in his first two Major League seasons. The focus in Bradenton has been to clean up the movement patterns in his swing to drive the ball more consistently.

“It’s a little unusual, but to his credit, he really wanted to dedicate that time to get better,” Cherington said. “We felt like the environment there would allow for that a little bit better, a little bit more of a consistent routine.”

Tucker came into camp as a shortstop after testing his wheels in center field last season. Though he’ll enter Triple-A as a shortstop, Cherington said that the organization won’t hesitate to move him to the outfield if it makes sense, especially given the Pirates’ premium placed on versatility.

“We want to give him a chance to play shortstop, but that doesn’t mean he won’t move around at some point,” Cherington said. “He’s certainly capable of doing that.”

Worth noting

Brian Goodwin, whom the Pirates signed to a Minor League deal near the outset of Spring Training, did not appear on the Opening Day roster of any of the organization’s affiliates. Cherington confirmed in April that Goodwin’s contract has an opt-out, but he did not say that Goodwin had opted out as of Saturday.

“He’s not with the team and we’re working through that situation with Brian,” Cherington said. “I think we’ll have a resolution on that in the next couple of days.”

With Anthony Alford and Dustin Fowler having been designated for assignment in the past two weeks and a starting spot in the outfield still to fill, Goodwin is an experienced option if the need arises. The 30-year-old showed his potential in 2019 with the Angels, when he hit .262/.326/.470 with 29 doubles, three triples and 17 homers in 136 games.

• Cherington said that the Pirates had another round of COVID-19 vaccinations in the past 7-10 days and are “getting closer” to the 85% vaccination threshold.

Clubs were informed just before Opening Day that MLB and the MLBPA have agreed to relax certain health and safety protocols contained in the 2021 Operations Manual for fully vaccinated Tier 1 Individuals and for clubs where 85% of their Tier 1 Individuals are fully vaccinated. As part of that memo, players and staff were again strongly encouraged to receive one of the approved COVID-19 vaccines when eligible.

“Our position has continued to be that we recommend [the vaccine],” Cherington said. “We are trying to share information as best we can and answer questions. It’s not going to be a mandate, but we’re hoping we can find our way to 85% in time.”