Yesterday the Pirates fired Double-A manager Matt Walbeck after he won the Eastern League championship and manager of the year award, which had many people scratching their heads.
It still seems like an odd move given how successful Walbeck has been–winning four manager of the year awards and three championships in six seasons in the minors–but Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette talked to sources who revealed some of the behind-the-scenes reasoning.
Apparently last season the Pirates were upset with the “lack of extra work, pregame work, and other preparations involving the players” at Double-A “compared to other affiliates.” They talked to Walbeck about addressing those issues this season, but still weren’t happy with the results.
Of course, when asked about those issues Walbeck told Kovacevic that he didn’t view it as a problem:
It was great. One of my main objectives this season was to follow the guidelines within the minor-league system. Early ground balls. Bunting. PFP. I felt like I became a better teacher because of it. Look at the innings pitched. Look at the games played. You can go up and down the roster and see the number of players who were healthy and realize, within that, that it was a successful season.
It’s tough to argue with Walbeck’s on-field results, but then again on-field results aren’t really the primary purpose of a team’s minor league system. Clearly the Pirates felt that he wasn’t developing prospects in the way they want prospects to be developed. Whether or not the Pirates’ way of doing things is particularly effective in the first place is another issue, clearly.
They also believed that he wanted to move up the organizational ladder–which is something that Walbeck has since confirmed–and obviously weren’t interested in promoting him to Triple-A or the majors. Despite that, I suspect Walbeck will have no trouble landing another managing gig at Double-A or Triple-A, and may even find a coaching job in the majors next season.
Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle shares the bad news …
One of the Astros’ big bats won’t be taking hacks when the Astros hold their first full workout on Feb. 23.
Astros designated hitter Evan Gattis recently underwent surgery to repair a hernia, the Chronicle has learned, taking away most of his spring training at a minimum. The recovery is four to six weeks but fortunately for Gattis and the Astros, the injury is not considered severe.
Gattis was working hard on his overall conditioning this winter, even telling MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart in late January that he had already dropped 18 pounds. It appears the big man might have gone a bit overboard on those workouts, and now he is in real danger of missing the first couple weeks of the 2016 regular season.
Gattis batted .246/.285/.463 with 27 home runs and 88 RBI in 153 games last season for the Astros. The 29-year-old is arbitration-eligible for the first time in his career and has a hearing with the Astros scheduled for February 16 to determine his salary for 2016. He requested $3.8 million and was offered $3 million when figures were exchanged a little over three weeks ago.
Suddenly the Astros’ front office might have a new talking point for those arbitrators.
At last check, new Cardinals reliever Seung-Hwan Oh was still awaiting a work visa from the United States Embassy in South Korea and there was some worry that he might not be able to arrive on time to spring training in Jupiter, Florida.
But that is now officially a non-story.
Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Oh has recieved his work visa and is expected to report to Cardinals camp next week along with the rest of the club’s pitchers and catchers. Oh might even show up a bit earlier than the Cardinals originally asked him to, per Goold.
Oh saved 357 games in 11 seasons between Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball and the Korea Baseball Organization before inking a one-year contract with St. Louis this winter. He also registered a stellar 1.81 ERA and 772 strikeouts across 646 total innings in Asia, earning the nickname “The Final Boss.”
Oh is expected to work in a setup role this year for Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal.
John Lamb was part of the Reds’ return package in last July’s Johnny Cueto trade and he had a strong showing at the Triple-A level in 2015. But the young left-hander posted a 5.80 ERA in a 10-start cup of coffee with Cincinnati late last season — his first 10 appearances as a major leaguer — and now comes word from MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon that Lamb will probably have to get off to a late start in 2016.
Lamb underwent surgery in December to repair a herniated disc in his back — a surgery that went unreported by the Reds until Tuesday afternoon. Reds manager Bryan Price acknowledged on MLB Network that Lamb is behind the team’s other starting pitchers and will likely open the coming season on the disabled list. The hope is that he might be ready by mid-April.
It’s a small but frustrating blow for a rebuilding Reds team that will be looking to establish some foundational pieces in 2016. Once he is recovered, Lamb will be expected to fill the Reds’ fifth rotation spot behind Raisel Iglesias, Anthony DeSclafani, Brandon Finnegan, and Michael Lorenzen.
This is going to be an ugly year for Cincinnati baseball fans.
Rangers ace Yu Darvish missed the entire 2015 season after undergoing Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery last March 17. Most starting pitchers take 13-15 months to fully recover from that procedure, and the Rangers aren’t counting on Darvish until sometime this May.
His rehab so far has gone on without issue.
Darvish offered some very positive updates Tuesday to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram …
Darvish, 29, boasts a 3.27 ERA and 1.196 WHIP in 83 career major league starts. He can also claim a whopping 680 strikeouts in 545 1/3 career major league innings.
Texas has him under contract for $10 million in 2016 and $11 million in 2017.