It looked like the Mariners might give Nick Franklin an extended opportunity to earn playing time in their outfield following Logan Morrison’s hamstring injury, but one day after Franklin started in the outfield for the first time in his professional career he’s headed back to Triple-A.
Franklin went 2-for-13 in a six-game call-up to Seattle after hitting .395 in 11 games at Triple-A, and instead of letting him take a crack at a regular outfield gig the Mariners will have him continue to showcase himself for a potential trade as a middle infielder in the minors.
There was one play Wednesday in which Franklin clearly looked like a newbie in the outfield and perhaps that was a factor in the quick demotion, because Greg Johns of MLB.com reports that the Mariners will replace him on the roster with journeyman outfielder Cole Gillespie.
Franklin played 102 games for the Mariners last season as a 22-year-old rookie and before that consistently ranked as a top-100 prospect, but lost his starting job at second base when Seattle signed Robinson Cano.
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.