Fryer up, Brown down at catcher for Pirates
The Pirates reached into their farm system again Saturday and called up catcher Eric Fryer from Triple-A Indianapolis.
Fryer, 25, arrived at PNC Park shortly before the game against the Boston Red Sox. To clear space on the active and 40-man rosters, catcher Dusty Brown was designated for assignment.
Injuries to Chris Snyder (back) and Ryan Doumit (ankle) have left the Pirates short-handed at catcher. After arriving in a trade two weeks ago, Mike McKenry quickly surpassed Brown, who struggled defensively, as the primary catcher.
"We appreciate Dusty Brown's efforts, but believe that Eric Fryer has a chance to help this major league club more than Dusty Brown at this point in time," general manager Neal Huntington said via e-mail.
Fryer was acquired June 29, 2009, from the New York Yankees in the Eric Hinske trade. He began this season with Double-A Altoona, where he hit .345 with five homers and 16 RBI in 37 games. After being promoted to Indy, Fryer hit .262 with two homers and nine RBI in 21 games.
Fryer is the second prospect to join the team in two days; infielder Chase d'Arnaud was called up Friday. There are more moves to come — outfielder Alex Presley is expected to be promoted before Tuesday's game against the Toronto Blue Jays, and Josh Harrison likely will be recalled July 3.
"We're in an environment where we need to do that," manager Clint Hurdle said. "Sometimes you don't know what a guy can do until you bring him up here. You don't want to put a ceiling on a guy, 'Oh, those are Triple-A numbers.' Sometimes you need to bring them up, take that step of faith, give them an opportunity and see what they can do."
Pirates reliever Jose Veras and Red Sox slugger David Ortiz were teammates for seven seasons on Leones del Escogido in the Dominican Winter League. So, although the two had squared off only once before in the majors, Veras knew what to do when Ortiz came to the plate in the eighth inning Friday.
"He's my friend. I've known him for a long time," Veras said. "I have a little bit of an idea how to pitch that guy. I know he is going to jump at a first-pitch fastball. It's my best pitch."
When manager Clint Hurdle went to the mound, Veras revealed his plan.
"We will pitch him backward," Veras declared. "Soft early and hard late."
Satisfied with that strategy, Hurdle opted to leave Veras in the game — even though he's a right-handed pitcher and Ortiz bats lefty. There were two outs, runners on second and third, and the Pirates were up by two runs.
Intentional walk• No chance, Veras said.
"There are times when you've got to make decisions to face guys like David Ortiz," Veras said. "He's a great hitter, a power guy. So you've got to make a decision. You've got to face up to it and make quality pitches."
That's not what Ortiz expected.
"I thought they would pitch around me, especially when he started me off with two changeups," Ortiz said.
A hard, chilly rain began to fall. Ortiz called time and stepped out, blinking hard as water ran down his batting helmet into his eyes.
"What's wrong with Mother Nature?" Ortiz said. "I walked up to the plate and it started pouring. What's up with that?"
After the count went to one ball, two strikes, Ortiz doggedly fouled off three pitches.
"It was pretty good drama," Hurdle said.
Trusting his scouting reports, Hurdle shifted shortstop Ronny Cedeno toward second base. When Ortiz finally smacked a grounder up the middle, Cedeno was in perfect position to snag it and get the out.
Taking a dive
In a game last week, McKenry dived into first base trying to beat a bang-bang play. He was called out. Cedeno also will slide head-first into the bag on close plays.
It's not a method that Hurdle teaches or endorses, but he's powerless to stop it.
"You tell them you don't like to see it, but once they're on the field, they're (like) kids playing ball out in the backyard," Hurdle said. "They're trying to find a way to get on base. Every time they dive, I just close my eyes and keep my fingers crossed that they don't get hurt."
Third baseman Pedro Alvarez was supposed to return to game action Friday in extended spring training, but had what Hurdle called "a neck setback." Alvarez is on the disabled list because of a strained right quadriceps, and there is no timetable for his return. ... Reliever Joe Beimel (elbow inflammation) threw a pain-free, 25-pitch bullpen session yesterday.