cloudy.png
Saturday July 2nd, 2022 7:44AM

In Pittsburgh, Pirates' overhaul gains momentum by the day

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Oneil Cruz untucked the No. 15 jersey hugging the shoulders of his wiry 6-foot-7 inch frame, turned his hat backward then flashed a smile that needed no translation.

One of the biggest pieces — literally and metaphorically — of the revival that Pittsburgh Pirates general manager Ben Cherington has methodically orchestrated since taking over in November 2019 looked every bit as good as advertised in his 2022 debut.

The hardest throw by any major league infielder this season. The hardest-hit ball and the fastest sprint around the bases by a Pirate through 66 games, too, a madcap dash that drove in three runs and ended with Cruz practically cackling as he made his way from second to third.

The fact he was thrown out trying to stretch a double into a triple hardly mattered. By then, the 23-year-old was trending on Twitter as shouts of “Cruuuuuz” reverberated in a ballpark that's frequently resembled a library at closing time for most of the last half-decade.

Those days may be numbered, even if the finished product Cherington is tasked with delivering in Pittsburgh remains a ways off.

The Pirates are well under .500 weeks before the All-Star break and struggle to get PNC Park a third filled most nights. Many of the prospects Cherington has drafted or acquired during his 30-month tenure — some of them in trades that sent popular and proven veterans elsewhere in moves that angered and alienated a fanbase desperate for something or someone to believe in — are still in the minors.

Some, however, are seemingly here to stay. Cruz is wearing No. 15 now, unlike last fall, when he donned No. 61 during a brief two-game cameo last fall. Add that to signing third baseman Ke'Bryan Hayes to an eight-year extension and the unexpected jolt provided by outfielder Jack Suwinski — who made the leap from Double-A in late April as an emergency fill-in and is making a compelling case that he should never go back — and there's tangible proof that Cherington's top-to-bottom overhaul is gaining momentum.

“Sometimes (our personnel decisions have been) frustrating to people, and I understand that," Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. "It’s hard. We’ve stuck to our process, and in the long run, we’re going to see the benefits of it.”

Cruz's long-awaited promotion from Triple-A is among the most high-profile of what the Pirates hope will become a steady influx of young talented players over the next few seasons, though pitcher Quinn Priester, infielder Nick Gonzalez and catcher Henry Davis — all first-round picks — aren't particularly close to touching the Roberto Clemente sign above the stairwell that leads to the home dugout.

By the time they arrive, the franchise may no longer have to rely on nostalgia and the beauty of its ballpark to get people inside. The days when the most popular jerseys in the stands on a given night are past Hall of Famers (Clemente, Willie Stargell) could be numbered.

Cherington is optimistic but cautious. The farm system is loaded and some of the players he's brought in — Suwinski and his MLB-rookie leading 11 home runs — are starting to make an impact. Yet Cherington has been around the game long enough to know there is no such thing as a straight line to success.

“There’s going to be twists and turns, left turns and right turns," Cherington said. "Over time, we need to see that arc in a positive direction towards more winning. (We are) confident it will.”

If anything, Cherington is edging closer to phasing out the “placeholder” approach he's taken at the major-league level over his first three seasons. Veterans like first baseman Yoshi Tsutsugo, outfielder Jake Marisnick and Josh VanMeter — all of them on one-year deals — are on their way back from injuries. There is no definitive plan on how the Pirates plan to handle their possible return.

There's a chance outfielder Bligh Madris, who had three hits in his major-league debut Monday,, could head back to the minors for more seasoning. It seems equally likely the Pirates let the kids play rather than go with more established players who won't be around when the club's window to become a contender in the NL Central opens.

That window is still shut, for now, anyway, with a sixth losing season in seven years likely in the offing. But the youth movement brings hope.

During one game last week, the 25-year-old Hayes, who is signed through the rest of the decade, realized he was the second-longest tenured Pirate in the lineup.

“We have a lot of young guys, a lot of guys learning,” Hayes said. “We have great things brewing here.”

Minutes later, with the chorus of the club song “We Can Fly So High” echoing across a nearly empty clubhouse, Hayes grabbed his glove and disappeared into a long-promised future.

___

More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Sports, AP Online Baseball , AP Sports - Major League Baseball, AP Sports - Minor League Baseball
© Copyright 2022 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Biden to name 1st Native American US treasurer to head Mint
A Native American is being appointed U.S. treasurer, a historic first
1:22PM ( 7 minutes ago )
Aces and Sky clinch spots in Commissioner's Cup title game
Las Vegas and Chicago will meet in the second annual Commissioner’s Cup championship game next month
1:08PM ( 21 minutes ago )
4-hour docuseries on The Rolling Stones to air on EPIX
The Rolling Stones will help celebrate their 60th anniversary with an upcoming four-part docuseries on EPIX that takes turns focusing on the band’s most iconic members, with in-depth portraits of singer Mick Jagger, guitarists Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood, and the late drummer Charlie Watts
1:08PM ( 22 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Deshaun Watson settles 20 of 24 sexual misconduct lawsuits
An attorney says Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson has reached an agreement to settle 20 of the 24 civil lawsuits that had been filed by women who had accused him of sexual assault and harassment
12:46PM ( 44 minutes ago )
In Pittsburgh, Pirates' overhaul gains momentum by the day
Highly touted Pirates shortstop prospect Oneil Cruz is leading the charge of young players that the club hopes to build around
12:28PM ( 1 hour ago )
Defending champ Dressel drops out of 100 freestyle at worlds
Two-time world champion Caeleb Dressel will not be defending his title in the men’s 100 freestyle at the swimming world championships after withdrawing from the semifinals
12:04PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Sports
Arcia's tiebreaking single in 9th lifts Braves past Giants
Orlando Arcia drove in pinch-runner Phil Gosselin from second base with a tiebreaking single in the ninth inning, lifting the Atlanta Braves to a 2-1 victory over the San Francisco Giants
11:40PM ( 13 hours ago )
Newly promoted Cruz, Madris spark Pirates, rout Cubs 12-1
Newly promoted Oneil Cruz drove in four runs and Bligh Madris got three hits in his major league debut, sparking the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 12-1 romp over the Chicago Cubs
11:39PM ( 13 hours ago )
Burnes, Brewers blank Cards 2-0, move alone atop NL Central
Corbin Burnes pitched seven dominant innings, Tyrone Taylor hit a two-run homer and the Milwaukee Brewers regained sole possession of first place in the NL Central with a 2-0 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals
11:12PM ( 14 hours ago )
AP Online Baseball
Trout hits 5th HR in 5-game series, Angels beat Mariners
Mike Trout homered for the fifth time in the five-game series and Los Angeles Angels beat the Seattle Mariners 4-0
8:24PM ( 1 day ago )
Padres star Machado sprains ankle, Rockies complete sweep
San Diego star third baseman Manny Machado sprained his left ankle while taking a tumble running out a grounder and the Colorado Rockies completed a three-game sweep, beating the Padres 8-3
8:16PM ( 1 day ago )
Suwinski hits 3rd HR in bottom 9th, lifts Bucs over Giants
Jack Suwinski hit his third homer of the game in the ninth inning, giving the Pittsburgh Pirates a 4-3, walk-off victory over the San Francisco Giants to avoid a three-game sweep
6:55PM ( 1 day ago )
AP Sports - Major League Baseball
Column: Are Savannah Bananas the cure for baseball's ills?
More than 90 minutes before the first pitch, it’s clear this is not just another baseball game
3:12PM ( 3 days ago )
Minor league game time cut 29 minutes with pitch clocks
Minor league games with a pitch clock have averaged 2 hours, 35 minutes this season, down from 3:04 through June 14 last year
2:50PM ( 4 days ago )
Mets, minor leaguers plan meeting to discuss pay, conditions
Leaders from the New York Mets recently held what’s believed to be an unprecedented meeting with the nonprofit group Advocates for Minor Leaguers to discuss pay and working conditions in the minors, and another meeting is planned soon that will include players from the team’s farm system
8:19PM ( 5 days ago )
AP Sports - Minor League Baseball
Biden to name 1st Native American US treasurer to head Mint
A Native American is being appointed U.S. treasurer, a historic first
1:22PM ( 8 minutes ago )
Aces and Sky clinch spots in Commissioner's Cup title game
Las Vegas and Chicago will meet in the second annual Commissioner’s Cup championship game next month
1:08PM ( 22 minutes ago )
4-hour docuseries on The Rolling Stones to air on EPIX
The Rolling Stones will help celebrate their 60th anniversary with an upcoming four-part docuseries on EPIX that takes turns focusing on the band’s most iconic members, with in-depth portraits of singer Mick Jagger, guitarists Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood, and the late drummer Charlie Watts
1:08PM ( 22 minutes ago )
Texas top cop: Uvalde police response an 'abject failure'
The head of the Texas Department of Public Safety says three minutes after a gunman entered a school where he slaughtered 19 elementary students and two teachers there was sufficient armed law enforcement on scene to stop the gunman
1:05PM ( 24 minutes ago )
Chicago police unveil long-awaited foot pursuit policy
A new foot pursuit policy prohibits Chicago police officers from chasing people simply because they run away or if they are suspected of committing minor offenses
12:58PM ( 31 minutes ago )