The Pirates’ recent collapse has been pretty depressing to watch, but there is some good news to report this morning.
According to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Neil Walker is back in the Pirates’ starting lineup this afternoon against the Cubs after missing 16 straight starts due to lower back tightness. He struck out as a pinch-hitter yesterday in his first game action since August 26.
The Pirates went 4-12 with Walker out of the lineup and have lost seven in a row to fall to 72-71 on the year. They’ll open today’s action three games behind the Cardinals in the Wild Card race with 19 games to play. Postseason aspirations aside, avoiding a 20th straight losing season is suddenly looking dicey.
Walker, 27, is batting .280/.341/.434 with 14 home runs, 69 RBI and a .775 OPS in 122 games played this season.
Chris Young joined the Phillies as their assistant pitching coach last offseason. This offseason he’s getting a promotion: the Phillies just named as their main (um, top? lead? alpha?) pitching coach for the 2019 season. He replaces Rick Kranitz.
Ken Rosenthal, who reported the promotion, says that the Phillies didn’t necessarily want to shake up their pitching coach situation, but that since several clubs wanted to hire Young away, it was either promote him to the top job or lose him. That’s bad news for Kranitz, but he remains under contract for 2019 and will, in the meantime, be allowed to interview elsewhere.
The Phillies pitching staff ranked 11th in runs allowed in the National League in 2018. They were tenth the year before that, but some early season uncertainty and mismanagement by Gabe Kapler and a late season collapse served to hide what was, for most of the season, a bit of a better staff than the year before. The Phillies obviously credit Young for that and want to keep him in the fold.