PITTSBURGH (93-7 The FAN) – “It was a hard decision, maybe one of the hardest I’ve been involved in.”
That’s how Pirates manager Clint Hurdle described the release of reliever Jared Hughes on Wednesday.
The 31-year-old signed a one-year, 2.83 million contract with the Bucs in January and was under arbitration control next year, before being eligible for free agency in 2019. The Bucs will be on the hook for one-sixth of that amount unless he would sign elsewhere.
“This provides us with the opportunity to use (Juan) Nicasio a couple of different ways, it doesn’t force Nicasio to be a long man. We have a rotation where we need two multi-inning relievers and a swing guy. In the best interest in the team going forward, we felt we were stronger with this decision.”
Hughes had his highest ERA since 2013 at 3.03 last year, a year Hurdle described as “challenging.” He had his highest walks and homers allowed and lowest strikeouts during that span. The righty also dealt with a lat strain, missing all of April.
Reaction is what you might expect about the fan and locker room favorite.
“It’s pretty unfortunate, been around here for a long time and was one of the first guys I met going through this whole thing and this whole process,” said shortstop Jordy Mercer. “It just stinks. Everybody sees the kind of competitor he is on the mound and what he does. For me it’s about off the field and the type of guy he is and the type of family man he is. Those are the hard ones to lose.”
“That’s really tough, that’s hard to swallow,” Antonio Bastardo said. “We expect to leave here with him being a part of this bullpen.
“He’s a horse, bro, he always takes the ball,” Bastardo added. “He’s always going to pitch. He wants to pitch every day. The way he gets to the mound, he’s going to do business.”
“He believes his best ball is in front of him and we’re going to pull like heck,” Hurdle said. “He had a servant’s heart, the way he put out in the community was special and significant, never with fanfare. He loved being a Pirate, loved being a teammate and was a special guy. He was a big part of the reason we had success over that three year period.”