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Perrotto: Are Pirates Turning Henry Davis Into The Great Pumpkin?



Pittsburgh Pirates, Henry Davis, Alfonso Rivas

With Halloween Week coming to an end, let’s revisit a television classic – It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.

Linus holds out the hope in the film that there is something called The Great Pumpkin, who delivers candy to all children who believe in him and will wait in a pumpkin patch for him on Halloween. Pretty much the Halloween version of Santa Claus.

Linus sits in the pumpkin patch until 4 a.m. Alas, The Great Pumpkin never arrives.

Henry Davis is becoming the Pirates’ version of The Great Pumpkin, though it’s not all necessarily his fault. He was considered the Pirates’ catcher of the future from the moment he was selected first overall in the 2021 amateur draft from the University of Louisville.

Davis made it to the major leagues this year, debuting on June 19 and appearing in 62 games, including 60 as a starter.

However, he did not start any games as a catcher. He logged just two one-inning appearances behind the plate in games that were already lost.

Though Davis started 49 times in right field and 11 as the designated hitter, the Pirates insist that they still consider him a catcher. General manager Ben Cherington says Davis will compete with incumbent Endy Rodriguez, who was also a rookie in 2023, for the starting job in spring training.

“I just think we believe in both of those cases, Endy and Henry, that catcher is their primary position,” Cherington said. “It has been for their entire life, and they are young players who are just getting to the big leagues. We owe it to them, and to us, a chance to find out what it looks like at that position and give them a chance to be major-league catchers.”

Neither one had good first seasons in the major leagues.

Davis hit .213/.302/.351 with seven home runs in his 62 games. Rodriguez played in 57 games and batted .220/.284/.328 with three homers.

While Davis played almost exclusively in right field for the Pirates, Rodriguez made all 45 starts at catcher, though he also played two innings at first base. Rodriguez has more versatility than Davis as he also saw action at second base and all three outfield positions in the minor leagues.

In the end, only one of the two can become the Pirates’ No. 1 catcher. Unless, of course, they both turn out to be busts.

Yet Cherington says it isn’t fair to make that determination on a primary catcher yet considering the two players have 459 plate appearances combined at the major-league level. Both Davis and Rodriguez have been told to concentrate on catching during their off-season workouts.

“There’s years and years down the road the road to make adjustments if they feel like it makes sense to make adjustments, but we think it’s in the best interest of both Henry and Endy and the Pirates to focus on catching going into 2024 with both of them,” Cherington said. “We believe they can do it. We don’t need to make decisions right now on who’s on the team, what role guys (are going to play).

“We have time to figure that out. Things will happen this offseason. We just don’t have to make those decisions right now. It’s exciting. We’ll be excited to see those guys come into camp and compete.”

Yet it still seems odd that Davis did not start even once behind the plate this past season. That makes it difficult to take the Pirates’ talk of Davis possibly being their primary catcher seriously.

Davis is an intense competitor and hard worker who will do everything he can to improve his defense. However, until he starts a major-league game at catcher, it feels a lot like Linus staying up until the wee hours waiting on The Great Pumpkin.


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