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Perrotto: Pirates Could be Getting Another Adrenaline Shot

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Ji Hwan Bae, Pittsburgh Pirates

PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Pirates had already promoted a player from within once in the last two weeks to shake up their moribund offense.

That has worked out well. Second baseman Nick Gonzales is hitting .282/.310/.462 in 11 games since being promoted on May 10 from Triple-A Indianapolis.

Gonzales was the hero Tuesday night when his leadoff RBI single in the bottom of the 10th inning rallied the Pirates to a 7-6 victory over the San Francisco Giants at PNC Park. Gonzales already has nine RBIs in 39 at-bats,

Despite being with the team for less than two weeks, Gonzales has driven in one more run than two players who have been regulars all season — first baseman Rowdy Tellez and center fielder Michael A. Taylor.

The Pirates are now hoping that a second call-up from Indianapolis can have the same effect on an offense that is scoring just 3.82 runs a game. That ranks 27th among the 30 MLB teams ahead of just the Oakland Athletics (3.70), Toronto Blue Jays (3.68) and Chicago White Sox (2.88).

Infielder/outfielder Ji Hwan Bae was recalled from Indianapolis on Tuesday. He singled in the first run of a four-run ninth inning in which the Pirates tied the score at 6-all and forced extra innings.

Bae played center field and batted ninth, going 1 for 3 with a walk, two runs scored and a stolen base.

That was a continuation of his play at Indianapolis where his .367 batting average in 27 games led the International League. He also had four home runs and a .479 on-base percentage.

Bae and the Pirates knew he needed to adjust as a hitter after posting a .231/.296/.311 slash line last season as a rookie in 111 games. Though he stole 24 bases, he hit just two home runs.

“There’s been one thing I’ve been talking with the hitting coaches and have been working on in Indy and I think we’re in a happy place where both of us are happy about it, so I feel good,” Bae said. “In order for me to get to first base, I’ve got to hit the ball on the barrel. Then I can use my speed to steal or something. So that was one of the things I’ve been working on, too.”

Bae is known much more for his speed than his power, so the home runs at Triple-A were a surprise. The 24-year-old has a simple explanation for his power surge.

“I’ve just been trying to hit it in the sweet spot, but maybe I just got stronger compared to last year,” Bae said.

It would be welcome news for the Pirates if Bae can carry his improvement to the big leagues. The Pirates also could use Bae’s above-average speed on the bases as they have just 27 steals in 49 games.

Bae stole 14 bases in his first 31 games last season before being slowed by an ankle injury. Gonzales knows what Bae can do for an offense after being teammates with him in both the major and minor leagues.

“He’s a special player,” Gonzales said.

The Pirates have won four of their last five games. Yet they are 23-26 and in third place in the National League Central, 5.5 games behind the division-leading Milwaukee Brewers.

By no means are the Pirates buried in the standings. They could use another Gonzales-type boost if they are to contend this season.

Bae could be that adrenaline shot.

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