Not a whole lot went right for the Pirates in their 8-1 loss to the Marlins on Friday night at PNC Park. That is except for Jason Delay’s third-inning home run, the first in the 27-year-old’s brief major league career.
Delay turned on a 2-2 slider and hit the ball just inside the left-field foul pole while clearing the fence. After that, well, things get a little bit foggy.
“There wasn’t really anything going through my head, I was pretty much just floating,” Delay said with a laugh.
Jason Delay just hit his first Major League home run! pic.twitter.com/6JdbeG4Apv
— Pittsburgh Pirates (@Pirates) July 23, 2022
Through his first 13 games with the Pirates, Delay is batting .324 with an .861 OPS (142 wRC+). The sample size is small, but the production has been timely for the Pirates, who haven’t gotten much offensively out of the catcher spot since Roberto Perez went down with an injury earlier in the season.
Tyler Heineman and Michael Perez have been the primary catchers for the Pirates alongside Delay this year. Heineman has shown strong defensive abilities, but hasn’t done much with the bat. Perez was designated for assignment on Friday, leaving the Pirates with just two backstops on their 40-man roster.
On the season, Pirates’ catchers have combined to hit below the Mendoza Line, checking in with a .199 batting average and a miniscule .582 OPS, which ranks 24th in the major leagues.
Coming up through the Pirates’ system, Delay was known as a defensive-first catcher, and that’s by design. Delay takes pride in his defense, and whatever he does with the bat is a bonus.
“I’m just trying to string together good at-bats,” Delay said. “I think I’ve made it pretty well known defense comes first for me.”.
Delay’s defense has been solid so far. He’s shown the ability to frame pitches and has caught a pair of attempted base stealers.
But what has impressed, and perhaps even surprised the Pirates so far, is what he has done with the bat. That was emphasized Friday night when the rookie catcher was responsible for the only fireworks at PNC Park.
As for what Delay plans to do with the baseball, well, that is yet to be determined.
“Probably put it with the first caught stealing and first hit, but I don’t know, I’ll cross that bridge in the offseason,” Delay said.