Bob Smizik: Why are Nix/Martinez still here?

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Random thoughts on the Pirates and on their 5-4 loss last night to the Washington Nationals:

• Exclusive of first base, there are three infield positions. There also are three outfield positions. The Pirates are carrying six infielders (not counting first basemen) and three outfielders. How ridiculous is that? What kind of sense does it make to continue to carry both Michael Martinez and Jayson Nix on the active roster? For better roster coverage and for a better bench, the Pirates should have another outfielder on the team. The fact that both outfielders Andrew Lambo and Jose Tabata, playing at Indianapolis, are better options than Martinez and Nix make the composition of the roster all the more unfathomable.

• The 25 best players should be on the active roster. That is not the case with the Pirates.

• Gerrit Cole had a strong rehab assignment at Indianapolis last night -- seven innings, no runs, five hits, one walk, three strikeouts. Three strikeouts is a bit surprising and disappointing, but by most indications Cole should be back in the rotation next week.

• If Cole returns, who departs the rotation? Jeff Locke has been the early favorite, but Charlie Morton put himself in strong consideration with his performance last night -- three innings, five runs, seven hits, three walks, three strikeouts. In his past seven starts, Morton has an ERA of 6.00 and WHIP of 1.54. If Cole weren’t coming back, the Pirates would have to consider putting Brandon Cumpton in Morton’s spot.

• It was a nice return to third base by Pedro Alvarez -- two hits, both driving in a run, and no errors. Alvarez played third base only because Jordy Mercer was out with injury and Josh Harrison moved from third to shortstop. If Alvarez continues to play well after Mercer is healthy, manager Clint Hurdle has one of those problems managers like to have.

• The Pirates bullpen got five scoreless innings -- four hits, one walk, six strikeouts -- from Jeanmar Gomez (two innings), Justin Wilson, Tony Watson and John Axford. In his Pirates debut, Axford pitched a 1-2-3 eighth and struck out two.

• Since July 12, Travis Snider, 1-for-3 with a walk last night, is batting .338 (23-for 68) with six home runs, 18 RBIs and an OPS of about 1.045. Not bad for a fourth outfielder. Not to suggest the Pirates don’t miss Andrew McCutchen, but Snider has admirably picked up the slack left by one of the best players in baseball. Since McCutchen left the lineup Aug. 3, Snider is batting .333 (11-for-33) with three home runs and an OPS over 1.100.

• Mini-slumps: Gregory Polanco is 0-for-11 and 4-for-25; Josh Harrison is 2-for-17 and 5-for-25; Russell Martin is 3-for-15.

• Quick quiz: To which Pirates does this second-half batting line belong: .478/.538/.565 -- 1.103. Answer: Light-hitting catcher Chris Stewart, in 26 plate appearances. A better Stewart stat: For the season, he’s batting .480 (12-for-25) with an 1.136 OPS vs. left-handed pitching. Hurdle should look for days when the Pirates are facing a lefty to rest Martin.

• The Pirates aren’t the only team often clueless on the bases. With none out in the first inning and runners on first and second, Washington’s Denard Span tried to steal third. And was thrown out by Martin. The next four Washington batters reached base.

• In 191 Class AAA at bats this season, Nix is hitting .272 with a .748 OPS. In 270 Class AAA at bats, Martinez is hitting .252 with a .625 OPS. In 196 Class AAA at bats, Lambo is batting .332 with a .919 OPS. Which of the three would better serve the Pirates?

First Published August 16, 2014 12:00 AM

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