Pittsburgh Pirates roster and schedule for 2020 season

Pirates roster and schedule
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The 2020 MLB season is now a 60-game dash, starting on July 23 and ending, hopefully, with a full-size postseason in October. Between now and the start of the season, we’ll be giving quick capsule previews of each team, reminding you of where things stood back in Spring Training and where they stand now as we embark on what is sure to be the strangest season in baseball history. First up: The Pittsburgh Pirates roster and schedule:

PIRATES ROSTER (projected)

When the season opens on July 23-24, teams can sport rosters of up to 30 players, with a minimum of 25. Two weeks later, rosters must be reduced to 28 and then, two weeks after that, they must be reduced to 26. Teams will be permitted to add a 27th player for doubleheaders.

In light of that, there is a great degree of latitude for which specific players will break summer camp. For now, though, here are who we expect to be on the Pirates roster to begin the season:

Catchers:

Jacob Stallings
John Ryan Murphy

Infielders:

Josh Bell
Adam Frazier
Kevin Newman
Erik González
Colin Moran
José Osuna
Cole Tucker
JT Riddle

Outfielders:

Bryan Reynolds
Jarrod Dyson
Guillermo Heredia
Socrates Brito

Starters:

Joe Musgrove
Trevor Williams
Mitch Keller
Derek Holland
Steven Brault
Chad Kuhl

Relievers:

Keone Kela
Kyle Krick
Richard Rodríguez
Michael Feliz
Nick Burdi
Chris Stratton
Clay Holmes
Dovydas Neverauskas
Robbie Erlin
Nik Turley
JT Brubaker


BREAKDOWN:

The Pirates stunk it up last season, finishing 69-93, good for last place in the NL Central. As a result, president Frank Coonelly, GM Neal Huntington, manager Clint Hurdle, and pitching coach Ray Searage were fired. They have been replaced, respectively, by Travis Williams, Ben Cherington, Derek Shelton, and Oscar Marin. The Pirates also traded All-Star outfielder Starling Marte to the Diamondbacks in the offseason. Starter Chris Archer will miss the season after undergoing neck surgery, and outfielder Gregory Polanco is currently a question mark after testing positive for COVID-19. Additionally, closer Keone Kela is on the 10-day injured list for undisclosed reasons and seems unlikely to be ready for the start of the season.

With all that out of the way, let’s talk about who is on the roster. The Pirates were tops in the National League in batting average, hitting .265 last season. They can thank Kevin Newman (.308) and Bryan Reynolds (.314) for that and both will reprise their roles at shortstop and left field, respectively. Josh Bell will provide the power after drilling 37 homers and knocking in 116 runs last year. The Pirates will also hope to get some production out of Polanco if and when he returns.

The starting pitching was rather unimpressive last season as Joe Musgrove led the way with a 4.44 ERA among Pirates starters who made at least 10 starts. That being said, the rotation does have some upside. Musgrove, for example, averaged better than four strikeouts for every one walk he issued in 2019. Lefty Steven Brault and right-hander Chad Kuhl will share the No. 5 spot.

Without Kela in the closer’s role, Kyle Crick would seem to be the initial favorite for save opportunities. Nick Burdi could also find himself in the mix, though he has all of 10 innings of major league experience. Burdi posted excellent strikeout rates in the minors and even struck out 19 of the 50 batters he has faced in the bigs.

While there are certainly some bright spots on the Pirates’ roster, it lacks the upper echelon of talent as well as the depth emblematic of contending ball clubs. The Pirates are likely ticketed for another last-place finish in the NL Central and the Baseball Prospectus projected standings agree, putting them on a 26-34 record in the NL Central cellar.

PIRATES SCHEDULE:

Every team will play 60 games. Teams will be playing 40 games against their own division rivals and 20 interleague games against the corresponding geographic division from the other league. Six of the 20 interleague games will be “rivalry” games.

  • July 24-26: @ Cardinals
  • July 27-29: vs. Brewers
  • July 31-August 2: @ Cubs
  • August 3-4: @ Twins
  • August 5-6: vs. Twins
  • August 7-9: vs. Tigers
  • August 10-12: @ Cardinals
  • August 13-16: @ Reds
  • August 18-20: vs. Indians
  • August 21-23: vs. Brewers
  • August 25-26: @ White Sox
  • August 28-31: @ Brewers
  • September 1-3: vs. Cubs
  • September 4-6: vs. Reds
  • September 8-9: vs. White Sox
  • September 11-13: @ Royals
  • September 14-16: @ Reds
  • September 17-20: vs. Cardinals
  • September 21-24: vs. Cubs
  • September 25-27: @ Indians

The entire Pirates schedule can be seen here.

La Russa steps down as White Sox manager over heart issue

tony la russa
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CHICAGO — Tony La Russa stepped down as manager of the Chicago White Sox on Monday because of a heart issue, ending a disappointing two-year run in the same spot where the Hall of Famer got his first job as a big league skipper.

La Russa, a three-time World Series champion who turns 78 on Tuesday, missed the final 34 games with the underachieving White Sox. He left the team on Aug. 30 and doctors ultimately told him to stay out of the dugout.

La Russa has a pacemaker implanted in February and doctors later found another heart problem that he has not detailed.

“It has become obvious that the length of the treatment and recovery process for this second health issue makes it impossible for me to be the White Sox manager in 2023,” he said in a statement. “The timing of this announcement now enables the front office to include filling the manager position with their other offseason priorities.”

Chicago began the season with World Series aspirations but was plagued by injuries and inconsistent play. It was 79-80 heading into Monday night’s game against Minnesota.

“Our team’s record this season is the final reality. It is an unacceptable disappointment. There were some pluses, but too many minuses,” La Russa said. “I was hired to provide positive, difference-making leadership and support. Our record is proof. I did not do my job.”

Bench coach Miguel Cairo took over after La Russa stepped away. The White Sox showed a spark right after the change, winning 10 of 14. But they dropped eight straight in late September, dashing their playoff hopes.

La Russa, who is close friends with White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, was a surprise hire in October 2020, and he directed the team to the AL Central title last year.

But the White Sox sputtered throughout much of 2022, and there were chants of “Fire Tony! Fire Tony!” at Guaranteed Rate Field.

“At no time have I been disappointed or upset with White Sox fans, including those who at times chanted `Fire Tony,”‘ La Russa said. “They come to games with passion for our team and a strong desire to win. Loud and excited when we win, they rightly are upset when we play poorly.”

All-Star shortstop Tim Anderson and sluggers Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert missed significant time because of injuries. Catcher Yasmani Grandal and third baseman Yoan Moncada also had health issues, and they underperformed when they were on the field.

There were embarrassing breakdowns, too, like when the White Sox ran themselves into the first 8-5 triple play in major league history during a loss to Minnesota on July 4.

La Russa continued to be a lightning rod for fans who weren’t thrilled with his hiring in the first place. His lineups came under question as did his decisions in games.

Some fans chanted for La Russa’s dismissal following a strange call for an intentional walk to to the Dodgers’ Trea Turner despite a 1-2 count on June 9. Bennett Sousa had just bounced an 0-2 slider, allowing the runner to advance from first to second.

With the base open, La Russa chose to walk Turner even though there were two strikes. It backfired when Max Muncy smacked a three-run homer, propelling Los Angeles to an 11-9 victory.

Another moment that raised eyebrows happened early in the 2021 season.

During a 1-0 loss to Cincinnati, La Russa was unaware of a rule that would have allowed him to use Jose Abreu as the automatic runner at second base rather than closer Liam Hendriks in the 10th inning.

With a 2,900-2,514 record over 35 years with Chicago, Oakland and St. Louis, La Russa trails only Connie Mack on baseball’s career wins list. He moved past John McGraw last season.

But there were big questions about whether La Russa was the right person for the job when the White Sox hired him to replace Rick Renteria. He hadn’t filled out a lineup card since 2011, when St. Louis beat Texas in the World Series. There were doubts about how someone known more for his scowl than smile would mesh with a fun-loving team that had just delivered the White Sox’s first playoff appearance since 2008.

Then, shortly after his hiring, news surfaced of an arrest on misdemeanor DUI charges.

La Russa blew out a tire on the Lexus he was driving in a collision with a curb that February in Arizona, after going to dinner with friends. The case was filed on Oct. 28, one day before the White Sox announced La Russa’s hiring.

He ended up pleading guilty to a lesser charge of reckless driving and was sentenced to one day of home detention, a fine of nearly $1,400 and 20 hours of community service.

La Russa also pleaded guilty to driving under the influence in Florida in 2007 after police found him asleep and smelling of alcohol inside his running sport-utility vehicle at a stoplight.

La Russa captured championships with Oakland in 1989 and the Cardinals in 2006 and 2011. The former big league infielder and Sparky Anderson are the only managers to win the World Series in the American and National leagues.

He got his first major league managing job at age 34 when the White Sox promoted him from Triple-A to replace the fired Don Kessinger during the 1979 season. He took over that August and led them to a 522-510 record over parts of eight seasons.

The 1983 team won 99 games on the way to the AL West championship – Chicago’s first playoff appearance since the 1959 Go-Go White Sox won the pennant. But La Russa was fired in 1986 by then-general manager Ken Harrelson after the White Sox got off to a 26-38 start, a move Reinsdorf long regretted.