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Perrotto: Can Henry Davis Give Pirates What They Need?

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The Pittsburgh Pirates need a jolt in the worst way.

The Pirates finished an 0-6 road trip to Chicago and Milwaukee on Sunday. Not only did the Pirates not win a game but they were outscored 43-17.

In the old days, the Pirates might have shaken things up by firing manager Derek Shelton, especially after his team gave away a 2-0 lead in a 5-2 loss to the Brewers on Sunday in Milwaukee.

However, this is 2023. Managers rarely get fired during the season anymore nor should they, as most only follow instructions from the front office.

Making a trade in June is rare. With the expanded playoffs, everyone thinks they are in the postseason chase and aren’t ready to start dealing.

So, general manager Ben Cherington did the one thing he could attempt to roust his fading team. He decided to call up catching prospect Henry Davis from Triple-A Indianapolis.

Davis was the first overall pick in the 2021 amateur draft from the University of Louisville and the Pirates gave him a $5.5-million signing bonus.

The 23-year-old right-handed hitter is scheduled to make his major-league debut Monday night when the Pirates open a three-game series against the Chicago Cubs at PNC Park.

Shelton did not go into details about exactly how he will utilize Davis following Sunday’s game.

Shelton did say that catchers Austin Hedges and Jason Delay will remain with the Pirates. And it is instructive to note that Davis played six games in right field and five games at catcher for Indianapolis following his promotion from Double-A Altoona.

For Altoona, he started 30 games behind the plate, seven in right field and four as the designated hitter.

The Pirates, though, are bringing Davis up primarily with the hope that he can spark their offense. He hit .284/.433/.547 with 10 home runs and seven stolen bases in 41 games for Altoona then .286/.432/.514 with one homer and two steals in 10 games with Indianapolis.

Cherington and Shelton have continually praised Hedges for his game calling and believe it offsets his anemic .175/.231/.242 slash line in 42 games. Delay has been a solid No. 2 catcher, hitting .293/.359/.402 over 34 games.

However, even if he doesn’t do much catching, the Pirates could use some of the thump Davis might be able to provide. They are 24th among the 30 major-league teams with 67 home runs, though their .401 slugging percentage is 14th.

What the Pirates need most of all are some wins if they are to stay in the chase in the weak National League Central. They are just 14-28 since their surprising 20-8 start.

The losing streak has dropped the Pirates to 34-36 yet they are still just 2.5 games behind the division-leading Brewers despite Milwaukee’s weekend sweep. However, the winless road trip dropped the Pirates from first place to third as they have also fallen behind the Cincinnati Reds.

Just how much of a jolt Davis will give the Pirates remains to be seen.

Scouts I talk with repeatedly compare Davis to former major-league catcher/outfielder Evan Gattis. In a six-year career that ended in 2018, Gattis hit .248/.300/.476 with 139 home runs for the Atlanta Braves and Houston Astros.

Gattis also provided just 8.8 WAR, was never selected to an All-Star Game and was out of the big leagues at 32.

The Pirates hope to get more than that from Davis over the long haul. In the short term, they will just take any kind of spark he can provide.

It will be interesting to see if he is up to the challenge.

 

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