PITTSBURGH – It has been painful to watch Jack Suwinski hit over the last month. Or more precisely, try to hit.
Suwinski went 0 for 3 on July 9 against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ final game before the All-Star break. That was the start of a nightmarish slump that has continued throughout the second half of the season for the center fielder.
Counting the game before the break, Suwinski is hitting .115 in 31 games with just 11 hits in 96 at-bats. He has struck out 44 times in 113 plate appearances.
Those alarmingly bad numbers make it fair to wonder why the 25-year-old hasn’t been demoted to Triple-A Indianapolis. However, the Pirates say they have no plans to have Suwinski try to get back on track in the minor leagues.
Manager Derek Shelton says the Pirates are keeping Suwinski in the big leagues because of his body of work throughout the season.
Overall, Suwinski’s slash line is .202/.330/.440 in 110 games. The on-base percentage is certainly acceptable, bolstered by 60 walks in 406 plate appearances, and he leads the Pirates with 21 home runs.
However, Suwinski’s OBP is just .239 over those last 31 games. He also hasn’t hit a home run since July 24, a span of 85 plate appearances.
Nevertheless, the Pirates don’t feel a minor-league stint would necessarily aid Suwinski. They give Suwinski high marks for his mental makeup and, at least outwardly, does not seem beaten down by his struggles.
“He’s actually had a pretty good year,” Shelton said. “He’s in a tough stretch right now. I think right now we feel it’s the best thing for him to be here and get his work in. Just to continue to solidify some things that we know are in there. We need probably to be a little more aggressive at the plate. But we also need him to clear his mind a little bit. Right now, we feel in the big leagues is the best spot because there’s a good hitter in there. We’ve seen it. There’s power in there. But it’s a tough game at times. We just have to stay with him a little bit.”
Scouts have an adage that if you have seen a player do something once then you know he can do it again. Suwinski has certainly proven he can be a successful player at times in the major leagues, hitting 40 home runs in the equivalent of 1.5 seasons.
Shelton gave Suwinski back-to-back days off Tuesday and Wednesday in the final two games of a series against the St. Louis Cardinals at PNC Park. Suwinski spent extensive time before each game working with Andy Haines and the Pirates’ other hitting coaches while taking a mental break from competition.
“The big leagues are hard, and we have a lot of rookies that are finding out in one way or another,” Shelton said. “I think the other thing that we have to remember with Jack is, he’s just over a year in the big leagues. So, there’s going to be bumps and bruises. Learning how to go through times where things aren’t going well is really important and in the long run, is going to make him better.”
Suwinski is certainly experiencing tough times. Being overmatched by major-league pitching for six weeks makes it debatable whether he is getting better for the experience.