What to do with Meadows
By John Mehno
For the Mirror
PITTSBURGH — Austin Meadows was on the bench when the Pirates opened their series against the Milwaukee Brewers Thursday night.
Could there be a change of address in his immediate future?
Although Gregory Polanco sat against lefthanded starter Wade Miley, Jordan Luplow got the start in right field rather than Meadows. It was the sixth time in the last seven games that Meadows’ name wasn’t on the lineup card.
“The offensive numbers have dropped off, (against) both right and lefthanded pitching,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “We’re getting to a spot where he needs to play, so that’s why we’re taking a look at Jordan and seeing what maybe he can provide and see what direction we’re going to need to hunt (for an) extra outfielder.”
Two things are clear from what Hurdle said — the Pirates are contemplating whether to send Meadows back to the minor leagues and at this point Meadows is thought of as a reserve behind Corey Dickerson, Starling Marte and Polanco.
Meadows’ initial success was a highlight in an otherwise dreary season. But since then his production has fallen off, much in the way Polanco’s did when he first came to the major leagues in 2014.
Polanco started with an 11-game hitting streak. In Meadows’ first 11 games, he batted .439 with four home runs in 41 at bats. His OPS was 1.282.
In his last 34 games since May 30, Meadows has batted .250 with one home run in 108 at bats. The OPS in that time is .642.
In the last 14 games, Meadws is hitting .231 with a .561 OPS. Meadows had gone 102 at bats without a home run entering Thursday’s game.
“The league has kind of punched back,” Hurdle said. “I think there’s one mechanical thing we can help him with that’s kind of hindering some things.”
If that repair isn’t made, does Meadows go back to Class AAA Indianapolis? General manager Neal Huntington has been reluctant to send out prospects because of the talent gap between the minors and majors.
“We’ll have those discussions internally as we talk about what’s best for the player and for the team,” Hurdle said.
Meadows told mlb.com, “I’d rather be here than Triple A. I think anybody would say that.”
Francisco Cervelli again worked out at first base, and Hurdle said his first-string catcher could see some game action at first.
The motivation, Hurdle said, is finding a way to keep the productive bats of Cervelli and backup catcher Elias Diaz in the lineup at the same time.
“It gets (Cervelli) a chance to stay in the lineup and not have to catch five or six days a week,” Hurdle said.
He pointed to the San Francisco Giants’ Buster Posey as an example of a catcher who is also used at first base.
“He’s been the perfect model for this,” Hurdle said. “It frees up your second catcher to catching. It’s definitely something we are trying to move forward with (Cervelli).”
The other factor has been the disappointing Josh Bell, the Pirates’ regular first baseman. Through his first 311 at bats, Bell had a .251 average and just five home runs.
Hurdle indicated Trevor Williams could be available to pitch out of the bullpen this weekend.
Williams started and won Wednesday’s game against Washington, and will not start again until after the All-Star break.
The Pirates have a doubleheader on Saturday and might be able to use an extra arm out of the bullpen.
Mehno can be reached at email@example.com)