Who Else Could Join the Pirates in September?

The Pittsburgh Pirates recalled Kris Johnson, Travis Snider, and Kyle Farnsworth this morning on the first day that rosters expanded. The active roster is currently at 28 players, and the Pirates can expand that up to 40, using everyone on the 40-man roster if they wanted to. Clint Hurdle has said the team would only expand to about 35-36 players this month, and that the expansion would be in stages. Below are some of the players who are candidates to join the Pirates in September, along with their estimated arrival.

Disabled List

The Pirates will have a few players returning from the disabled list throughout the month of September.

Jason Grilli could return to the Pirates by next weekend. (Photo by: David Hague)
Jason Grilli could return to the Pirates by next weekend. (Photo by: David Hague)

Jason Grilli, RHP – Grilli made a rehab appearance last night in Altoona. The current plan is for him to throw again in Altoona on Monday, Indianapolis on Wednesday, and then the Pirates will re-assess. If all goes well, he could re-join the bullpen next weekend.

Starling Marte, OF – Marte could begin a rehab assignment as early as the end of next week, and should return to the Pirates shortly after that. The rehab assignment in that timeframe isn’t guaranteed, but it does seem likely that the Pirates will get Marte back in September.

James McDonald, RHP – McDonald has been rehabbing in the GCL, and has made three starts. He will make another start tonight for Bradenton. He has been throwing around three innings and 50 pitches, which means the Pirates could be looking at him as a long man out of the bullpen. With rosters expanding, he could return to the majors shortly after today’s start. It’s also possible that the Pirates continue stretching him out, adding more rotation depth in September.

Wandy Rodriguez, LHP – The last update on Rodriguez was a positive. He might not be ready to return in September, since he would need some rehab work. At this point the Pirates should focus on getting Rodriguez back for the playoffs, if that’s possible.

Optioned to Altoona

Jeff Locke Pittsburgh Pirates
Jeff Locke is now part of a new “Altoona Four”. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Jeff Locke, LHP – Locke was optioned to Altoona so that he could return on Tuesday after their season ends.

Tony Sanchez, C – Sanchez was also optioned to Altoona so he could return ASAP. He should serve as the third catcher and could get some pinch hitting duties now that the Pirates have John Buck.

Jared Hughes, RHP – Hughes was optioned to make room for Stolmy Pimentel, which was an interesting decision. It suggests the Pirates feel stronger about Pimentel than Hughes for the playoffs.

Andrew Lambo, OF – He was optioned to make room for Justin Morneau.

40-Man Candidates

The Strong Bets

The following guys are on the 40-man roster, but aren’t guarantees to join the team. The Pirates will need 40-man spots when James McDonald and Wandy Rodriguez return. So two of these guys could be designated for assignment to create space. Note that if all of the above guys join the team, that puts the roster at 36 players. Clint Hurdle said the Pirates would only go with about 35-36 players, so the guys below might not be callups. These guys could also be depth options in the event of an injury during the month of September.

Brandon Cumpton seems most likely to join the Pirates out of the remaining 40-man guys. (Photo Credit: David Hague)
Brandon Cumpton seems most likely to join the Pirates out of the remaining 40-man guys. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Brandon Cumpton, RHP – Cumpton has helped the Pirates at times this year in the rotation. He could be a starting option down the stretch, or a long reliever. He has been inconsistent this month. His last start saw him throw seven shutout innings, and two starts before that he threw eight shutout innings. However, he has struggled in the surrounding starts, and is going over his career innings totals. Out of this group, he seems most likely to be called up.

Chase d’Arnaud, SS – He could help the Pirates as an extra middle infielder and a speed option off the bench. D’Arnaud also has a history of success against lefties, although that hasn’t shown up this year.

Andy Oliver, LHP – Oliver has struggled with control this year, so he’s not a guarantee to be called up. Kris Johnson gives them three lefties out of the pen, and while Oliver is another lefty option, his control problems don’t make him a good option.

Jerry Sands, OF – He has a history of hitting left-handed pitching, but this year he isn’t hitting anyone. The Pirates no longer need a platoon option against lefties in the outfield now that Marlon Byrd has been added. They also have plenty of outfield options, so I’d be surprised if Sands gets called up.

Ryan Reid, RHP – He has spent time with Pittsburgh this year, and could come up to help out the bullpen. However, Reid has struggled in the second half, so he’s not exactly a guarantee to join the team.

Duke Welker, RHP – It’s reported that he’s the PTBNL in the Justin Morneau trade, which means he can’t be called up. Also, that would take care of one of the 40-man roster spots that is needed for McDonald/Rodriguez.

Non-40 Man Candidates

The 40-man candidates in the list above probably won’t be called up due to the amount of guys the Pirates project to have on the roster. That makes the guys in this group less likely. But if the Pirates need depth throughout the month, especially on the hitting side, this group could provide that depth.

Matt Hague could give the Pirates a hitter off the bench that crushes lefties. (Photo Credit: David Hague)
Matt Hague could give the Pirates a hitter off the bench that crushes lefties. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Jameson Taillon, RHP – I’m only listing him here to say that I don’t see him getting called up. He’s a big name, and he carries prospect appeal, but he’s not the best option right now, as shown by his 4.4 BB/9 so far in Triple-A. He’s having the same control problems that Gerrit Cole had in his first month in Triple-A, which shows he needs some more time.

Russ Canzler, IF – He was recently outrighted to Triple-A. He has a history of hitting left-handed pitching, but hasn’t performed well this year, and I can’t see him joining the team at this point.

Ivan De Jesus, IF – He has been hitting well, with a .320/.381/.463 line in 294 at-bats this year. It would be hard to see where he fits in. Josh Harrison is playing well in the utility spot, and Chase d’Arnaud has the advantage of playing a better shortstop and having more speed. De Jesus would be down on the depth chart if he was added, making it unlikely.

Matt Hague, 1B – I don’t think Hague has a strong chance of making the team, since they’ve got three first basemen on the roster right now. He can step in at third, but the defense isn’t that sharp. The big appeal Hague has is that he crushes lefties. This year he has an .865 OPS against left-handers in 125 Triple-A at-bats. Gaby Sanchez is handling the platoon at first base, but Hague would provide another bat off the bench that can hit lefties.

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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Faye Zbuksukcz

I’m shuddering at the thought of JMac coming into a key game.


Do I have to wear a coat and tie to comment on this fancy new setup?

Vince Riedy

A mental picture no one wanted.


Really…. but it’s like driving past a wreck and not looking.

Lee Young

Good problems to have!



So you’d have a typical lineup s a RHP being Marte, Walker, McCutchen, Alvarez, Byrd, Morneau, Martin and Mercer.

You could have a bench with Jones, Gaby Sanchez, Tony Sanchez, Harrison, Lambo, Tabata, Buck, D’Arnaud, Snider, Pie and Sands.

That way Hurdle can be as liberal as he wants burning through punch hitters, pinch runners etc.


I think the more the merrier. We had a week with a 14, 12 and 16 inning game. Having 8-10 pinch hitting options and bullpen arms can come in handy. Better safe than sorry.

Who cares if Sands gets 2 at bats this month. He’s better than using a starting pitcher in the 16th inning.

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