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Pirates notebook: Elias Diaz gets comfortable in majors

Jerry DiPaola
| Tuesday, June 13, 2017, 8:09 p.m.

Catcher Francisco Cervelli is eligible to come off the seven-day concussion protocol list Wednesday. But there probably isn't a rush — or a need — to take his replacement out of the lineup.

Elias Diaz has sparked a previously dormant Pirates offense, reaching base in all nine of his starts and recording six hits in 11 at-bats before Tuesday. Any reason for the sudden surge by the rookie catcher? Manager Clint Hurdle has a few theories.

“My experience tells me he has been in preparation for this opportunity for a long time,” he said.

“There have been enough times where he has seen other people go up (to the majors) — and he hasn't been able to — that when this one got cemented, (he said), ‘OK, this is my shot.'

“We told him there would be some length to this. This isn't a 48-hour, 72-hour turnaround. Unpack your bag. Unpack your mind and get ready to play. So maybe that's helped him.”

Diaz is also finding success hitting to all fields.

“We call it directional hitting,” Hurdle said. “Hitting the ball hard where it's pitched. That's a Little League term that always works. It just makes sense for him.”

Hurdle, a former catcher, said a player gets a unique view of the game from behind the plate.

“This is the one thing I appreciated from catching,” he said. “Sit back there and watch the pitcher throw and watch hitters hit and really being able to gravitate to why guys make outs.”

Relief matters

While Hurdle recently has packaged Daniel Hudson, Juan Nicasio and Felipe Rivero as his late-inning pitchers — he doesn't like the term closer — he has found a spot for others in so-called low-leverage, less-desperate situations.

Recent call-up Edgar Santana entered the game in the eighth inning Monday with a 7-1 lead but walked two of the first three batters.

“If you ask him, I don't think he would say it's a low-leverage situation,” Hurdle said of the walks. “That's the part that always makes me giggle when I hear it from guys sitting on couches. It became a high-leverage situation for him.”

Santana escaped without allowing a run but needed a double-play groundball to do it.

Draft: Day 2

After drafting four high school players Monday, the Pirates reached onto college rosters for seven of their next eight picks.

The first was Florida State third baseman Dylan Busby, the third-round choice, who hit .315 with 14 home runs and 20 doubles this season.

The Pirates drafted catchers in the fourth and fifth rounds: Vanderbilt's Jason Delay and St. Joseph's Deon Stafford. Over the past two seasons, Stafford has 26 home runs.

Outfielders Jared Oliva of Arizona and Bligh Madris of Colorado Mesa were chosen in the seventh and ninth.

The Pirates took three pitchers — Cody Bolton of Tracy (Calif.) High School in the sixth, Blake Weiman of Kansas in the eighth and Beau Sulser of Dartmouth in the 10th.

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib

Pirates catcher Elias Diaz bats during the fourth inning against the Rockies Tuesday, June 13, 2017, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates catcher Elias Diaz bats during the fourth inning against the Rockies Tuesday, June 13, 2017, at PNC Park.
Pirates catcher Elias Diaz hits a two-run double during the first inning against the Marlins Sunday, June 11, 2017, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates catcher Elias Diaz hits a two-run double during the first inning against the Marlins Sunday, June 11, 2017, at PNC Park.
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