Chipper Jones replaces Matt Kemp on NL All-Star team

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It’s a case of very unusual timing, what with Chipper Jones currently leading the NL Final Vote, but the National League announced Tuesday that Jones would replace the injured Matt Kemp on the All-Star team.

The most recent reports had Chipper holding a slim lead in the Final Vote balloting over Cardinals third baseman David Freese, with Bryce Harper in third place.

Final Vote balloting ends Thursday afternoon, so it’s hard to see why the league didn’t just wait until then to announce Kemp’s replacement. If Freese goes on to win the balloting, it would give the NL team four third basemen, which hardly seems necessary. Now that Chipper is out of the mix, Harper figures to pick up more votes from the non-St. Louis contingent. Harper, of course, threw his support behind Chipper when the ballot was announced Sunday.

It will be Chipper’s eighth All-Star nod. The 1999 NL MVP and future Hall of Famer announced earlier this year that he’d retire at season’s end.

As for Kemp, he’s still expected to take part in Monday’s Home Run Derby, even though he’s on the disabled list with a strained hamstring. Ryan Braun automatically replaces him in the starting lineup because of his placement in the player’s vote, but this still gives manager Tony La Russa a decision to make, as Braun was the obvious choice to start at DH if Kemp had been able to play. Now La Russa can take his pick. Carlos Gonzalez is one possibility. David Wright could be another, particularly if Freese wins the Final Vote and gives the team the extra third baseman.

Report: Pirates to convert JB Shuck into two-way player

JB Shuck
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Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic reports that the Pirates have decided to convert outfielder JB Shuck into a two-way player. Recent comments relayed from the club’s director of player development, Larry Broadway, indicated that the outfielder would be coached in developing his pitching skills while working at Triple-A Indianapolis.

Per Broadway, the change would be enacted to help the veteran outfielder develop some much-needed versatility in the majors, where he’s only ever been limited to outfield and DH responsibilities. Well, except for the two games in which he pitched an inning of relief: once, against the Nationals in a blowout 11-4 loss in 2016, then in a similarly painful loss to the Diamondbacks this past April. During the latter outing, he finished the game with a 13-pitch ninth inning after allowing just one hit and one walk.

Add to that one minor-league outing in 2012, and the 31-year-old Shuck has pitched just three times over the course of his 12-season career in pro ball. While he has three years of experience on the mound from his college days, he’ll need quite a bit of preparation to handle the kind of workload expected from a two-way outfielder/reliever: 20+ innings pitched over a season and 20+ games played as a designated hitter or position player.

Still, his lack of experience doesn’t seem to faze Broadway, at least not this early in the process. There’s no word yet on how soon Shuck would be expected to debut his new skillset on a major-league level.