First things first: there was some confusion today about exactly what the Pirates did with Jose Tabata today to clear roster room for Neil Walker, so let’s run through that quickly. Outrighting a player to Triple-A means that the player has been both removed from the 40-man roster and sent to Triple-A. It’s a process used to send a player to Triple-A when said player doesn’t have any options left, which means that Tabata was first passed through waivers where he went unclaimed (this is likely more due to his contract than his baseball abilities). Because Tabata has more than three but less than five years of big league service, thePirates have the ability to outright him to the minors without prior permission, but Tabata also has the option to refuse the assignment to Triple-A and become a free agent. Refusing the assignment would also void his contract, though, so obviously Tabata didn’t do that. This is slightly different than being designated for assignment, which is basically setting a player aside for ten days to waive, trade, demote, or release. The end result is that Tabata is back in Triple-A for now. I wouldn’t read any more into this move than that Tabata was the one player that they could remove from the roster and push through waivers to keep in the organization. They could’ve done the same thing with Travis Snider, but Snider doesn’t have the same contract that Tabata does and could have been claimed or refused his assignment. Clint Barmes has more than five years experience, so I’m not sure he could have been demoted or outrighted at all at this point. I expect that we’ll see Tabata again in Pittsburgh before too long.
Anyway, Neil Walker is back and batting cleanup and since the Pirates have a designated hitter in Tampa Bay tonight, that means that they’ll be hitting Polanco/Marte/McCutchen/Walker/ Martin/Davis/Harrison/Alvarez/Mercer. That’s a lineup folks, with dangerous hitters from top to bottom. I’ve said it before but I’ll reiterate here: if there’s anything that’s going to carry the Pirates into the playoffs this year, it’s this lineup. That’s good, because Chris Archer is on the mound for the Rays tonight and he’s been flat-out excellent over the last six weeks after a rough start to 2014.
Jeff Locke pitches for the Pirates tonight. He’s made three excellent starts in a row and has nothing at all to show for them, as the Pirates lost the first one of those games 1-0 and the bullpen stole wins from him in the other two. I’ll go back into broken record mode: having him emerge as a consistent starter would be a big deal for the Pirates.
First pitch tonight is at 7:10. A win gets the Pirates their second series win in a row and puts them over .500 for the first time since April.