Photo:Joe Sargent / 2013 Getty Images
The Pirates options at first base went from questionable to straight-out wishful on Tuesday as the team pared its roster ahead of Monday's season-opener. Most notably, the Bucs optioned 25-year old Andrew Lambo to AAA Indianapolis. Lambo was expected to be the left-handed side of a first base platoon with Gaby Sanchez but had an horrid spring, hitting .095/.174/.095. Lambo basically had to show absolutely nothing in camp to blow his opportunity and he's apparently done that.
So where does that leave a Pirates team that decided to move on from both Justin Morneau and Garrett Jones this offseason? Good question. General Manager Neal Huntington has repeatedly expressed confidence in Sanchez's ability to be the every day starter at first. The numbers would suggest Huntington's confidence is misplaced. While the right-handed hitting Sanchez has raked against lefties, he's only put up a .700 career OPS against RHP including an abysmal .204/.304/.314 line last year.
One would think last year's small sample size thinking might have provided some lessons for the club. Last March it was just 43 at bats from Sanchez's torrid spring (.302/.415/.651) that convinced manager Clint Hurdle to abandon the offseason-long idea of a platoon at first base. Sanchez started the season 1-for-16 the opening week as the Bucs started 1-5 and that idea was quickly abandoned.
So if not Lambo, who? The Pirates other current option barring a last-minute trade is left-handed hitting Travis Ishikawa. The 30-year old Ishikawa, a non-roster invitee to spring training, has only had 194 plate appearances in the majors since 2010. Nonetheless his eight hits, including three home runs, in 30 plate appearances this spring appear to have secured him a spot on Opening Day. Small sample size redux?
For a Pirates team that created an incredible buzz and renewed interest after last year's 94-win playoff season, this is just one of a series of moves from a woeful offseason. First base has been a glaring need all winter. The Pirates have done nothing to address it. Hoping for unlikely performances seems to be the plan.