The Pittsburgh Pirates selected Connor Joe with the 39th overall pick in the 2014 draft, taking him with the first round competitive balance pick they got for trading Bryan Morris. Joe has yet to make his debut, after going down with an injury before he could get into a game last year. That will change tomorrow, as he joined West Virginia today and will make his pro debut tomorrow.
After signing last year, Joe reported to Jamestown, where he suffered a back injury that put him out of action for the season. He described that the injury happened when he was shagging balls in the outfield. He landed on his heel and jarred his back a little bit. He originally thought it was just a tweak, but really felt it when he threw. Joe clarified that it wasn’t a disk injury.
Since he was out of baseball for eight months, the Pirates took it slow getting him back into action. In mid-March when other players were starting to play exhibition games, Joe was taking grounders and first base and third base, while getting swings in off a tee during batting practice. That was the extent of his workload, with the Pirates being cautious while trying to build him back up.
Joe eventually moved to playing in games in extended Spring Training. He would take innings in the field at first base without hitting. On days where he would hit, he wouldn’t field, and wouldn’t even run out the balls that were hit.
“I think just with the back, the impact is tough with running, so they wanted to wait and hold off on that for the longest,” Joe said on why the Pirates didn’t have him running. “They did a good job with me.”
The no running approach changed on May 2nd, when he played in the field and took at-bats for the first time in the same game, playing five innings. His build up from that was obviously a quick one. He played another game at seven innings, then played a few full games. The Pirates felt he was ready to go after that.
“The physical therapist there did a great job,” Joe said. “The games were quick. The whole time I was taking live at-bats. I got a good amount of live at-bats, probably as much as these guys got in Spring Training.”
Joe will make his debut tomorrow, according to West Virginia manager Brian Esposito. He was drafted as an outfielder, but has been playing mostly first base, which is where he’s expected to play. He could factor in at third base eventually, but Jordan Luplow looks to be the primary guy at that position. Expect Joe to also get time at DH when Chase Simpson plays first base, with all three players rotating between the three positions.
“It’s been a long road,” Joe said of his pending debut. “It’s an unbelievable feeling.”
Pirates Prospects will have live coverage of tomorrow’s West Virginia game.