Clint Barmes was the Pirates’ primary shortstop this season, but after going 0-for-2 with an error against the Cardinals in Game 1 of the NLDS manager Clint Hurdle has decided to bench him for Game 2.
Jordy Mercer will start at shortstop, which is definitely an offense-for-defense swap. Mercer hit .285 with eight homers and a .772 OPS in 365 plate appearances this season while seeing action at shortstop and second base. Barmes, meanwhile, hit just .211 with a .558 OPS and was more or less just as bad for the Pirates last year too.
Meanwhile, just two days ago Hurdle talked about the importance of sticking with Barmes despite his lack of offensive production, telling Tom Singer of MLB.com:
For us older men, we always talked about the strength of the ball club being up the middle with your catcher, your second baseman, your shortstop and your center fielder. He’s given us that opportunity to be stronger. … Barmes has been an impact defender for us. Those that have watched our club throughout the season, there’s games when he makes plays that nobody else we have can make.
And one game later, Hurdle has benched Barmes.
José Bautista hasn’t appeared in the majors since 2018 but the 39-year-old isn’t done playing just yet. Last month, we learned via a report from ESPN’s Jeff Passan that Bautista is hoping to come back as a two-way player. He spent the winter working out as a pitcher.
Bautista had also been working with former Blue Jays teammate Marcus Stroman. Back in January, Stroman tweeted, “My bro @JoeyBats19 is nasty on the mound. We been working working. All jokes aside, this man can pitch in a big league bullpen. I’ll put my word on it!”
In March, Passan added some details about Bautista, writing, “I’ve seen video of Jose Bautista throwing a bullpen session. Couldn’t tell the velocity, but one source said he can run his fastball up to 94. His slider had legitimate tilt — threw a short one and a bigger bender. @STR0 said in January he could pitch in a big league bullpen.” Stroman retweeted it, adding, “Facts!”
Stroman reiterated his feelings on Tuesday. He tweeted, “Since y’all thought I wasn’t being serious when I said it the first time…my bro @JoeyBats19could EASILY pitch in a big league bullpen. Easily. Sinker, slider, and changeup are MLB ready!” Stroman attached a video of Bautista throwing a slider, in which one can hear Stroman calling the pitch “nasty.”
Stroman attached another video of Bautista throwing a glove-side sinker:
Replying to a fan, Stroman said Bautista’s body “is in better shape than 90-95% of the league.”
I am not a scout and won’t pretend to be one after watching two low-resolution videos. And Stroman’s hype is likely partially one friend attempting to uplift another. That being said, I’ve seen much worse from position players attempting to pitch. It’s a long shot, especially given his age, that Bautista will ever pitch in the majors, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him get an opportunity to pitch in front of major league scouts.