Morning Report: Pirates Are Slowly Getting Back All of Their Tommy John Surgery Players

In yesterday’s First Pitch article about Jameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow, Tim Williams noted that Taillon is doing things in his return from Tommy John surgery you shouldn’t expect a player to be doing. That makes it unfair when you compare the returns of other TJ surgery players to what he is doing.

If you read last night’s Prospect Watch, you read about a lot of players in different stages of their Tommy John recovery. There was the strong start from Clay Holmes, which got outstanding reviews from Justin Meccage, the pitching coach of the Curve, along with rehabbing Major League catcher Chris Stewart. If you didn’t read the Altoona recap, I suggest you go back and check out what Stewart had to say about Holmes and how he went about handling his start. Holmes has allowed two earned runs or less in ten of his last 11 starts.

Then in the GCL yesterday, the Pirates put together a parade of players returning from Tommy John surgery. It started with Nick Kingham for five innings, then went to Eduardo Vera, Delvin Hiciano and Justin Topa, who pitched the last two innings. I don’t think it was a coincidence that all four pitchers from yesterday had Tommy John surgery last year. They likely planned out a day for the rehabbing pitchers.

That GCL game didn’t include Jacob Taylor, who was scheduled to go earlier in the week when the Pirates had two games rained out. It also didn’t include Ivan Cespedes, who has pitched 14 innings in the GCL this year. Even though he signed in 2014, this is his first game experience. So they now have a total of six players returning from Tommy John surgery this year, all on one team.

Morgantown has Adrian Grullon returning from his surgery, and now he’s returning from a setback, which occurred in his third game this season. Tim Williams reported earlier this week that Grullon could get into a game next week. Just a note on Grullon if you decide to look him up. He is listed at 6’0″ and has been since he signed, but according to him, he is 6’8″. Standing next to him once, I don’t doubt that. The Black Bears also have Kevin Krause returning from TJ surgery, a position player.

The Pirates had more Tommy John surgeries than any other team in baseball from March 2014 until last year. That didn’t include Nathan Trevillian, a high school draft pick, who had his surgery back in April and will be the pitcher we talk about next year in the GCL making his return to the mound. The Pirates liked Trevillian enough to sign him to a six-figure bonus in the 22nd round last year.

It also didn’t include James Marvel, who was drafted out of Duke last year while he was in the middle of his Tommy John recovery. He’s been pitching at Morgantown this year and we will have an article on him later today.

Even with 11 players back in action now that we are covering, there are still some players down at Pirate City besides Nathan Trevillian who are going through their recovery.

Casey Sadler and Brandon Cumpton are still around, though Cumpton is still out due to his shoulder surgery, which happened during his TJ surgery recovery. Angel Sanchez is still there working out as well. All three will need to be re-signed if the Pirates intend on keeping them around next year. You also have Saul de la Cruz, who hasn’t made his pro debut yet, and Hector Garcia, who made our top 50 going into last year due to being a high upside lefty starter. They were two or the later players to have their surgery, so they haven’t returned yet.

If you want to look for a silver lining with all of those Tommy John surgeries, it’s that the Pirates have now gone through this rehab process often and both Taillon and Holmes can be considered success cases with their performance. I have also heard positive things about the quality of stuff and velocity coming from Jacob Taylor, Eduardo Vera and Delvin Hiciano. It helps them lay out a better plan for everyone else going forward and they can also take something from the setbacks. It’s area where it helps to have a better understanding, yet you hope to not have to put it into use too often going forward, because for the Pirates these last couple years, it has definitely been too often.


Indianapolis is in second place in their division, trailing by eight games. They trail by 12 games for the lone wild card spot.

Altoona leads their division by 3.5 games. The top two teams in the division go to the playoffs, with the first place team getting the home field advantage in the first round.

Bradenton won the first half title. They have home field advantage in the playoffs.

West Virginia is tied for fourth place in their division, trailing first by two games.

Morgantown is tied for fourth place in their division, trailing first place by 13 games. They are 6.5 games back for the lone wild card spot.

Bristol is in fourth place, trailing by 8.5 games. The top two teams in each division go to the playoffs.

The GCL Pirates are two games back in their division. This is the only league where you have to win your division to make the playoffs.

The DSL Pirates have been eliminated from the playoffs. Their season ends August 27th.


Source: FanGraphs


Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates won 5-1 on Friday night. Gerrit Cole gets the start today, coming off an outing in which he allowed four runs over 5.2 innings at home against the Reds. In his prior start, which followed his only career complete game, Cole lasted five innings against the Braves. The Dodgers will counter with Brandon McCarthy, who has a 3.00 ERA in 33 innings, with 35 strikeouts and a 1.12 WHIP. He has made seven starts, missing the start of the season due to Tommy John surgery.

In the minors, Drew Hutchison will make his third start since being acquired at the trade deadline. He gave up four runs over seven innings in his first game, then allowed five runs on seven hits and three walks in 4.2 innings on Monday. Yeudy Garcia is coming off of his worst outing of the season, six runs on five hits and four walks over 4.2 innings. He fell into second place in the Florida State League in strikeouts last night, now sitting one behind the leader.

Luis Escobar starts for Morgantown. He has allowed one walk in each of his last four starts, after issuing 15 walks in his first 20.1 innings. He is holding batters to a .221 average this season. Ike Schlabach will get the start for Bristol. He ranks sixth in the Appalachian League with a 1.21 WHIP.

MLB: Pittsburgh (58-55) @ Dodgers (64-51) 4:05 PM
Probable starter: Gerrit Cole (3.65 ERA, 40:138 BB/SO, 138.0 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (60-61) @ Lehigh Valley (71-48) 6:35 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Drew Hutchison (6.94 ERA, 7:10 BB/SO, 11.2 IP)

AA: Altoona (65-52) vs Reading (77-40) 6:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Cody Dickson (3.91 ERA, 78:79 BB/SO, 115.0 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (59-56) vs St Lucie (61-52) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Yeudy Garcia (3.02 ERA, 50:111 BB/SO, 107.1 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (60-57) vs Delmarva (60-57) 7:05 PM(season preview)
Probable starter: Dario Agrazal (4.65 ERA, 14:70 BB/SO, 118.0 IP)

Short-Season A: Morgantown (24-30) @ Brooklyn (29-25) 6:00 PM (season preview)
Probable Starter: Luis Escobar (3.19 ERA, 19:35 BB/SO, 42.1 IP)

Rookie: Bristol (19-29) vs Pulaski (21-25) 7:00 PM (season preview)

GCL: Pirates (17-24) vs Tigers East (17-26) 10:00 AM (season preview)

DSL: Pirates (25-34) vs Indians (23-36) 10:30 AM (season preview)


Here is a line drive single from Austin Meadows on Thursday. He is 5-for-20 with three walks since returning to Indianapolis.


8/10: Christian Kelley promoted to Bradenton. Raul Hernandez assigned to West Virginia.

8/10: John Kuchno assigned to Altoona.

8/9: Chad Kuhl promoted to Pirates. Curtis Partch optioned to Indianapolis.

8/9: Erik Lunde retired.

8/9: Kyle Lobstein placed on disabled list. Kelvin Marte activated from disabled list.

8/9: Raul Hernandez assigned to Bradenton.

8/8: Delvin Hiciano assigned to GCL Pirates on rehab.

8/8: Josh Outman assigned to Indianapolis.

8/7: Austin Meadows activated from Indianapolis disabled list.

8/6: Arquimedes Caminero traded to Mariners for two players to be named later. Curtis Partch recalled from Indianapolis

8/6: Jason Creasy assigned to Morgantown on rehab.

8/6: John Kuchno assigned to Indianapolis. Josh Outman assigned to Altoona.

8/6: Chris Harvey assigned to Morgantown

8/4: Ryan Vogelsong activated from disabled list. Max Moroff optioned to Indianapolis.

8/4: Pirates release Wilfredo Boscan.

8/4: Kelvin Marte placed on disabled list.

8/4: Henrry Rosario promoted to Bristol. Sam Kennelly assigned to GCL Pirates.

8/3: Chris Harvey promoted to Indianapolis. Trey Haley sent to Altoona.

8/3: Elvis Escobar promoted to Altoona. Justin Maffei assigned to Bradenton.

8/3: Erik Lunde assigned to Bradenton. Jose Regalado activated from disabled list.

8/2: Wilfredo Boscan placed on disabled list.

8/2: Tomas Morales assigned to Altoona. Chris Diaz activated from temporary inactive list.

8/1: Pirates trade Francisco Liriano, Reese McGuire and Harold Ramirez for Drew Hutchison.

8/1: Pirates acquire Ivan Nova from New York Yankees for players to be named later.

8/1: Pirates trade Jon Niese to New York Mets for Antonio Bastardo and cash.

8/1: Blake Cederlind placed on disabled list. Evan Piechota assigned to Bristol.

8/1: Edgar Santana promoted to Indianapolis.


Eight former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus a day in 1926 that changed the franchise. Since this day is so big, I’m just going to list the players and remind you that the link at the beginning of this section has a bio for all eight players.

Jonah Bayliss, 2006-07 pitcher

Tom Prince, catcher from 1987 until 1993

Jeff Ballard, 1993-94 pitcher

Mudcat Grant, 1970-71 pitcher. He turns 81 today. Grant won 145 games during a 14-year career.

Vinegar Bend Mizell, 1960-62 pitcher…two great nicknames in a row and both played on World Series teams.

Sid Gordon, 1954-55 3B/OF

George Susce, 1939 catcher

Steve Swetonic, pitcher from 1929 until 1933

On this date in 1926, the Pittsburgh Pirates released pitcher Babe Adams and outfielder Carson Bigbee, while also putting Hall of Fame outfielder Max Carey on waivers. Not only did they put Carey on waivers, they also suspended him until another team picked him up so he wouldn’t get paid. They were getting rid of one of the best outfielders in team history, one of the best pitchers in team history(and the only player from both the 1909 and 1925 WS winners), plus Bigbee, who spent his entire 11-year career in Pittsburgh. This was such a big deal, that it became front page news in Pittsburgh for four days straight.

The Pirates had brought in old manager Fred Clarke to be a bench coach and the players claimed that they were getting conflicting signals from Clarke and Bill McKechnie, to the point they questioned who was in charge. When players started getting fines due to these mix ups, they held a players meeting to vote on whether to get rid of Clarke. The vote came back 18-6 in favor of keeping him and Adams, Bigbee and Carey were three of the votes against, along with three rookies, all of whom were supposedly swayed by the veterans. So instead of getting rid of Clarke, they cut the three veterans. It was an extremely unpopular move for the fans, especially when the Pirates dropped out of first place and finished the season by going 23-24 after August 13th. It was known as the ABC Affair, for the first letter of each last name.

  • It seemed like a weekloccurrence a pitcher went down. I guess it was.

  • I certainly hope the Pirates are getting a group discount on those TJ surgeries.

  • I’m curious about the ABC Affair because, regardless of the vote, Adams and Bigbee never played again and Carey suddenly became a well below average player (83 OPS+).
    So it seems like it was the right thing to do regardless of the scandal.

    • Bigbee and Adams played again, just not in the majors. I think their age/performance made it easier to get rid of them, but it was a very unpopular move in Pittsburgh. The players had 46 years combined in the city and right in the middle of a pennant race, two were dumped and one was suspended and given away. Then the Pirates started losing, including a game in which Carey helped beat them in Pittsburgh, the fans were not happy at all. It’s a fascinating read and there is a book out on it if you want to know more. I read through the newspapers from the day and they fanned the flames of hatred

      • Thanks that looks interesting. After reading your report, I noticed that Carey just missed out (one year) on joining Adams as player to play for both the 1909 and 1925 teams

  • Dots, your articles continue to be must-read. Tying bygone history with what’s now going on is a really enjoyable pairing. May I suggest it read “slowly” in the headline?

    • strike that, reverse it.
      I get the meaning now, sorry.

      • You were actually correct and it was supposed to say “slowly” (which is does now) although slowing does sort of fit, it isn’t what I meant. My mistake on the last run through during editing. Didn’t save it, so that was wrong and the GCL pitcher (Miguel Hernandez) didn’t show up

  • Is Casey Sadler rehabbing? Certainly could have used Sadler and Cumpton this season.
    Thanks for the roundup. Btw, when do minor leaguers have to declare for FA?

    • Sadler just started pitching in games and looks great in relief. Velocity is up, the curve has really improved, and a recent article here pegs him as a strong RP prospect moving forward.

      • Thanks. I missed all the info or maybe my fading memory got the best of me.

      • Do you have Sadler confused with someone else? He had his Tommy John surgery at the end of October and hasn’t pitched in any games yet. I’m sure he’s throwing, but at 9 1/2 months in right now, he’s still far from the minimum recovery time to get back and even pitching in the instructional league seems unlikely this year.

        For comparison sake, Jacob Taylor had his surgery somewhere between July 22nd-25th last year and his first game back was August 3rd this year. That was considered a fairly quick return, but he’s still on a very limited pitch count. Faced three batters his first game, pitched a bullpen earlier this week.

        • For some reason I thought Sadler had problems in the spring. As you pointed out, Jacob Taylor came back quickly, but there have been others who have been out for a year and half. By and large, it’s remarkable careers haven’t ended abruptly for so many.

      • Lol Are you from the future?

  • I never knew that happened in ’26. Thanks JD for that bit of history.

  • Tim and JD and the crew do a great job with writing up the prospects. Every once in awhile another site comes up with a pretty good writeup/interview. I thought this was one of those.
    Writeup on Will Craig’s adjustment and Danny Bedde’s changeup

    • Lee thanks for the article tip and got to see “you” in the comment section for the first time. Math guy typical baseball fan!! Lol me too. Although you lost me at Penn State as I’m a Pitt fan hahah Marino days will never leave me, some great games vs Blackledge!