PITTSBURGH (93-7 The FAN) – A part of the Pirates’ post-season run in 2014, Bucs reliever John Holdzkom was sent down to Triple A Friday as one of 10 players reassigned.
Holdzhom joins Alen Hanson, Max Moroff, Gift Ngoepe, Wily Garcia, Josh Bell and injured pitcher Nick Kingham to Triple A. Juan Diaz, Adam Frazier and Dan Gamache were sent to minor league camp.
In 2014, Holdzkom came out of the Independent League to pitch in Altoona. He struck out 27 in 18 games in Indianapolis and then in nine games with the Pirates, struck out 14 while allowing a pair of earned runs. Holdzkom brought a 97 mph fastball and powerful breaking ball, which now isn’t there.
“It’s not 97, it’s 89-91 (mph) and it’s not a short cut, it’s more like a slider-type action,” said General Manager Neal Huntington. “Our focus becomes why isn’t the ball coming out the right way.”
Huntington said he doesn’t know of an injury to Holdzkom, but that could change, saying you have to work off what a player tells you. As of Friday, there were no above normal medical tests performed on Holdzkom.
“Most importantly, how do we get him healthy and how do we get this guy back to what he was in 2014?” Huntington said. “That guy can really help us, unfortunately the guy that we’ve seen this spring can’t help us.”
All of the Pirates’ middle infielders sent down on Friday can and likely will play multiple positions with Triple A Indianapolis, including DH. Huntington said they toyed with the idea of keeping Alen Hanson and he was very close to being an option until they signed infielder David Freese, that Huntington called a “now” player.
“If you look around our infield (at the Major League level), none of them started as the everyday guy at the position they are currently manning,” Huntington said. “We think that will lend them the ability to look and go, well Josh (Harrison) started out as a guy bouncing around the field, Jordy (Mercer) started as a guy backing up Clint (Barmes) and Kang we talked about a year ago, just about at this time, we believe is a regular we aren’t sure where and we aren’t sure when. All three of those guys are now regulars in our lineup.”
“Whether it’s Moroff, whether it’s Frazier, whether it’s Gift, whether it’s Alen Hanson,” Huntington said. “That’s four pretty talented, versatile infielders that all may help us at some point and it’s up to them who’s the first guy called up.”
Huntington saw some great signs from first baseman and former high school quarterback Josh Bell ,when he was relaxed. Huntington called him his “16-month-old first baseman” after a position change from the outfield. The challenge is the consistency for Bell who hit .158 in 19 at bats this spring.
Bell is also blocked by a number of players working out at first base in Bradenton, including Freese, John Jaso, Michael Morse and Jason Rogers.
“Josh isn’t far away from being able to help us, if the opportunity were there,” Huntington said. “We signed John Jaso with the idea that he would help us in 2016 and 2017. Having too many good players is a wonderful problem to have and you’ll cross each of those bridges when you get to them.”