PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) — The Pirates, as the National League playoff race intensifies, need all the help they can get on offense, as underscored by a shutout loss Sunday that concluded their West Coast road trip and left them even with St. Louis atop the Central Division.
John Perrotto, the veteran baseball writer for USA Today and the Beaver County Times, joined 93.7 The Fan weekend host Tab Douglas to discuss who might be able to help internally as Major League rosters expand to 40 this approaching Sunday.
Minor-league third baseman Russ Canzler, acquired from the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for pitcher Tim Alderson July 12, has, on the whole, dominated lefties in 2013. He’s registered a .337 average and 1.079 OPS against southpaws entering Monday, tagging them for half his RBI and eight of his 12 home runs.
But despite the terrible performance by All-Star third baseman Pedro Alvarez against left-handed pitching this season, don’t expect to see Canzler’s name on Clint Hurdle’s lineup card in any sort of platoon.
“Canzler is on the 40-man roster, but he’s not performed as well as they’d hoped in Indianapolis,” Perrotto explained.
“I just don’t see them sitting Pedro against a lefty in a pennant race. In a perfect world, Brandon Inge would’ve had enough left to spell Pedro at third base against left-handers. I don’t know if Russ Canzler is a guy you’re going to just throw into a pennant race when he’s not doing well in AAA,” he added. “If he’s going to be a star, he’s going to have to learn to hit lefties at least decently.”
Alvarez entered this week leading the National League with 31 home runs and a career-best 85 RBI, but also leading the senior circuit with 161 strikeouts. Against left-handed pitching, he has struck out a staggering 46% of the time.
Canzler’s overall strikeout rate has been much better, but he’s only hitting .200 with the Indians with three extra-base hits and 13 RBI.
A more viable option might be fellow infielder Matt Hague, who already has marginal experience with the big-league club the last two years. The first baseman is hitting .317 in Indy against lefties with 11 doubles and 15 RBI.
Although the Indians have ruled the competition in the International League this year and prepare for a playoff run, expect the Pirates to try and overcome their below-average hitting to try and take advantage of their above-average opportunity, even at the expense of their farm club.
“You have to put your interests in the big-league club first, especially this year,” Perrotto said.
Check out the rest of the interview here, in which Perrotto also talks about the professionalism of Clint Barmes, whether or not the Pirates can trust Charlie Morton going forward, and what the rest of the pitching staff might look like after Sept. 1: