Osuna getting look at third
PITTSBURGH — The Pirates have struggled to fill third base this season with the absence of Jung Ho Kang.
Is there a solution on the roster?
Jose Osuna, a first baseman who has been pressed into outfield duty this season, was doing some work at third base Friday afternoon, hours before the team returned from the All-Star break with a game against the St. Louis Cardinals.
“You’re in a hurry,” Hurdle responded when asked the possibility of using Osuna at third.
“We had him take some balls at third base. He took them in spring training as well. We’re revisiting something, maybe thinking down the road. Winter ball? He’s got a lot on his plate right now. We’re just trying to figure some things out, what we could do moving forward with him.
“It makes sense. (Coach) Joey Cora is here to work him out and see what flexibility he can provide and go from there. But it was nothing riveting. Who knows? We’ll see how it plays out.”
Hurdle said Osuna would probably play winter ball in his native Venezuela, but the turmoil in that country may place baseball in jeopardy there.
Could Osuna play third base for the Pirates this season?
“You never know what the season can provide,” Hurdle said. “Injuries? It’s a long-term vision.”
Osuna said he’s on board with trying a new position. He’s never played third base in a professional game, but said he played there at times while growing up.
“It was good,” he said of Friday’s work. “I have to get used to the smaller glove. I was working there yesterday, too, but today is like the first official work there.”
Kang remains in South Korea, unable to secure a work visa after his third conviction for impaired driving. General manager Neal Huntington said earlier in the week he thinks it is unlikely Kang will be able to play for the Pirates this season.
Osuna said nobody talked to him about playing third this season, “but I have to be ready.”
Back to work
The Pirates came back from the break and promptly changed the order of the starting rotation.
Jameson Taillon will start tonight’s game against fhe St. Louis Cardinals after missing the last game before the break because of food poisoning.
Chad Kuhl, who filled in for Taillon and pitched three innings on two days’ rest, will now work Monday against Milwaukee.
Trevor Williams gets Sunday’s game against the Cardinals, and Ivan Nova will start the fifth game after the break, Tuesday against the Brewers.
Gerrit Cole started Friday’s game because he’d had the longest layoff.
“Taillon has still been out 11 days,” Hurdle said. “We moved Kuhl a day back because of the spot start. We wanted to give Nova a maximum opportunity to refresh. He had never pitched this volume of innings for the first half of a season. We all thought it would help him to get a couple of extra days.”
A lot of the players scattered over the break. Hurdle spent the time off with his family at their home in Florida.
In the last labor contract, the players got a full four-day break for all teams. In the past, some teams had returned to play on Thursday, which meant players had to be back by Wednesday.
“I love the fact that we added the fourth day for all teams,” Hurdle said. “There was a time when some teams got that and some didn’t. I thought it was a competitive disadvantage at times, especially when travel becomes involved.”
The Pirates players actually had to be back on Thursday evening for a workout at PNC Park.
After these three games with the Cardinals, the Pirates will play four against Milwaukee.
This seven-game homestand could help determine how the Pirates approach the non-waiver trading deadline at the end of the month.
Hurdle quickly answered “no” when asked if this was a critical homestand.
“This is based on 43 years of professional experience,” he said. “Each game is critical. It would be great to get out to a really breakneck start. It would be really wonderful to have a great homestand.
“It starts tonight. What I’ve learned over 43 years, are we going to play harder, prepare better, now (in) this 10-game stretch before the trade deadline, than we have the first 90 games we’ve already played? If there’s any truth to that, we missed the boat over the first 90 games.
“We focus on what we control today, how we get better today. These guys know it’s important. It’s the Cardinals. It’s a homestand. We’ll get to the Brewers after we get done with the Cardinals. That’s our focus. We finished the first half with some momentum, played some pretty good baseball. That’s what we need to stay focused on into the second half.”