Attendance is down, in general, around most of Major League Baseball. The weather has played a part in that and so has the poor state of the economy. But at least one unexpected team has seen a rise in support, a rise that is only gaining more momentum: the Pittsburgh Pirates.
According to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, ticket sales this year at the gorgeous PNC Park are already up 2.4 percent and are 14 percent ahead of the sales pace set in 2010.
The Pirates sold out Saturday evening’s 6-2 interleague victory over the Tigers, in part because of a bobblehead promotion featuring popular second baseman and Pittsburgh native Neil Walker. One Pirates executive is predicting that the club will draw at least nine sellouts this season.
“We’re seeing some pretty good growth,” executive vice president Lou DePaoli said last week. “Even some weekday games are moving well. We should have more sellouts this year than we did last year.”
Of course, playing good baseball helps. The Bucs have an improved 22-23 record this season and sit only four games back of the Cardinals in the National League Central standings.
More than 90,000 tickets have been sold for the Pirates’ early-June series against the cross-state Phillies.
Nationals right-hander Jeremy Hellickson has been assigned to the 10-day disabled list after spraining his right wrist during a 4-2 loss to the Cardinals on Wednesday. The assignment is retroactive to August 15, though it’s not yet certain that Hellickson will be able to resume his role in the rotation after the minimum 10 days.
The 31-year-old righty was through 4 1/3 innings during Wednesday’s start when he threw a wild pitch behind the Cardinals’ Yadier Molina in the bottom of the fifth. He sprinted to cover home plate just as Harrison Bader took off from third base, and the two collided at the plate as Spencer Kieboom‘s throw home sailed over Hellickson’s head. He tumbled to the ground and rolled over his right wrist, then was forced to make a prompt exit from the field after feeling considerable soreness in his right hand.
While the X-rays returned negative, it makes sense for the Nationals to shelve Hellickson for the time being. In a best case scenario, he should miss only one turn through the rotation, provided that he’s able to work back up to full strength in the next week or so. The veteran righty is 5-3 in 18 starts this year with a 3.57 ERA, 1.9 BB/9 and 6.5 SO/9 across 88 1/3 innings. This will be his second official stint on the DL after missing nearly a month due to a right hamstring strain back in June.
In a corresponding move, fellow right-hander Jefry Rodriguez was recalled from Triple-A Syracuse and will fill in for Hellickson during Saturday’s set against the Marlins. Rodriguez, 25, has yet to get comfortable on the major league stage: entering Saturday, the rookie owns a 5.84 ERA, 4.7 BB/9 and 7.3 SO/9 through 24 2/3 innings.