Jacob Stallings was behind home plate for the Pittsburgh Pirates Friday night after missing the last game of the Los Angeles Angels series with a migraine.
But he had started seven of the previous 11 games this month and has kept his batting average and OPS higher than that of regular catcher Elias Diaz. Before Friday, Stallings had a .271/.333/.421 slash line to Diaz’s .248/.303/.314. Diaz had played twice as many games (58-29), however.
Manager Clint Hurdle said Stallings has done a good job “transitioning to more opportunity” after playing in a total of 24 games with the Pirates over the previous three seasons.
Plus, he is gaining a solid reputation for calling games for his pitchers, especially Chris Archer, who seldom shakes off one of Stallings’ signs.
“He’s been able to show up and add value,” Hurdle said. “He pays attention. He does his homework.”
A reporter suggested to Hurdle that the son of a coach might know something about patience and preparation. Stallings’ dad is veteran college basketball coach Kevin Stallings, who spent two seasons at Pitt.
“It may be one of the reasons he’s been able to transition to more of an opportunity here,” he said.
Stakes still high
Mitch Keller will make the fifth start of his major-league career Sunday night when the Pirates and Chicago Cubs visit Williamsport for the Little League Classic.
Keller earned his first big-league victory Monday against the Angels when he allowed one earned run over five innings.
While the Pirates were 50-70 and 13 ½ games out of first place in the National League Central, the rest of the season means something to Keller.
“We can still build on this season into the next one,” he said. “I don’t know if I’ve established myself yet. There is a lot left to prove. I don’t feel like I’m where I need to be.”
Steven Brault will start Saturday’s game.
Hartlieb sent down
When the Pirates recalled shortstop Cole Tucker from Triple-A Indianapolis, relief pitcher Geoff Hartlieb was optioned back to Indy.
Hartlieb appeared in 21 games, recording an 8.65 ERA while allowing 25 runs, seven homers and 39 hits in 26 innings.