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Perrotto: One Pirates’ Hitter is Salvageable, Another is Not

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Rowdy Tellez, Pittsburgh Pirates

PITTSBURGH – The question became even more relevant after another lousy day for Rowdy Tellez.

The Pittsburgh Pirates opted to drop a position player and add a relief pitcher to the roster before Thursday afternoon’s game against the San Francisco Giants at PNC Park. It was the logical move to make a day after the Pirates used five relievers in a 10-inning loss to the Giants.

So, calling up left-hander Jose Hernandez from Triple-A Indianapolis made plenty of sense. What didn’t make as much sense was keeping the struggling Tellez around for at least another day rather than designating him for assignment. Instead, the Pirates optioned outfielder Jack Suwinski to Indianapolis.

Tellez has been a major disappointment, especially because the Pirates were hoping to get the 2022 version of the strapping first baseman when they signed him to a one-year, $2.5-million contract as a free agent in the offseason. The left-handed hitter belted 35 home runs for the Milwaukee Brewers that season.

The Pirates haven’t even gotten the 2023 version of Tellez, whose home run total dropped to 13 a year ago.

And it only got worse Thursday when the latest version of “Skenesmas” turned into “Rowdy Boofest” as he went 0 for 4 and most of his at-bats were feeble, including two strikeouts and a weak pop fly to left field.

The fans let Tellez have it before and after each plate appearance.

Their disposition wasn’t helped by the fact that the bullpen squandered a 5-1 lead that was bequeathed to it by phenom Paul Skenes and the Pirates went on to lose 7-6. That came on the heels of the Pirates blowing a 5-0 lead on Wednesday night and losing 9-5.

Manager Derek Shelton didn’t criticize Tellez’s performance on Thursday because never is heard a discouraging word in Buccoland. Ever.

However, the tone of his voice and the abruptness of his answers made it seem like Shelton had reached the breaking point with Tellez.

“I think they need to be better,” Shelton said when asked about the quality of Tellez’s at-bats.

Shelton wasn’t much more revealing when asked why the Pirates are still hanging on to Tellez.

“Patience-wise I think he has to be better,” Shelton said. “That’s where it comes down to. He’s got to have better at-bats.”

Tellez, to his credit, sat at his locker following the game and talked to reporters. It was nice to see some rare accountability from someone in the Pirates’ organization.

Yet that can’t make up for Tellez hitting .175/.242/.225 this season with one home run in 45 games.

Suwinski hasn’t been great, either, with a .174/.268/.297 slash line and four homers in 49 games. But a case can be made that he deserves to be in the major leagues over Tellez.

Yet the Pirates made the smart move by sending Suwinski down. Suwinski is 25, four years younger than Tellez, and has more speed and plays better defense.

Suwinski has talent as his 26 home runs and 13 stolen bases last season indicate. It’s the Pirates’ task to have Suwinski refine that talent and become a more consistent player.

“We’ve seen Jack perform at the major-league level and this year I think he got in between a lot,” Shelton said, meaning Suwinski is having problems with his swing and decision-making. “He got off the fastball. Jack’s a big part of what we’re going do here so we need to get him going. It’s important for him to get going.”

Suwinski could still indeed be a part of the Pirates’ future. As for Tellez, it seems inevitable that he will soon become a part of the Pirates’ past.

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