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What Will Pirates Do Once Yasmani Grandal Returns?

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Mitch Keller, Yasmani Grandal, Pittsburgh Pirates, Paul Skenes

Yasmani Grandal is getting closer to coming off the injured list.

The veteran backstop began a rehab assignment with Triple-A Indianapolis on Tuesday night. He finished his first game 0 for 2 with a walk and an RBI while handling the catching duty. Grandal played five innings before he was substituted for prospect Grant Koch.

The Pirates placed Grandal on the 10-day IL to begin the season with a case of left foot plantar fasciitis. The ailment kept him out of the majority of spring training and he has yet to play in game during the regular season.

With Grandal becoming one step closer to returning, the Pirates are going to face a tough decision assuming there are no setbacks.

From the very beginning of spring training, the Pirates were adamant that Grandal was going to be one of the catchers on the initial 26-man roster if he was healthy. Manager Derek Shelton went as far to say that Grandal already had one spot locked down with an open competition for the second catcher.

If the Pirates still want Grandal on the roster, what will the corresponding move be? To preface this, maybe plans have changed since the Pirates were in Bradenton for spring training. The Pirates could always designated the 35-year-old for assignment or seek a trade with his consent.

But if the Pirates still want Grandal as one of the catchers on their active roster, what will the casualty be?

Does Grandal have enough value to supplant 2021 top pick Henry Davis, who has been serving as the team’s primary catcher for the majority of the season.

Despite Davis’ early struggles, that seems unwise. So far on the season, Davis is slashing a mere .173/.286/.231 without a home run in 16 games. He hasn’t played Gold Glove caliber defense but has proved at least somewhat competent by a .992 fielding percentage and minus-two defensive runs saved.

However, Davis is finally getting a chance to handle regular catching duties at the big-league level after spending all of two innings behind the plate with the Pirates last season. Forming relationships with the pitching staff and learning how to work with them in game situations is invaluable.

So, would the Pirates consider moving on from Joey Bart? The 2018 No. 2 pick was acquired from the San Francisco Giants on Apr. 2. Though the sample size has been small — very small — Bart has performed well during his brief time with the Pirates.

In three games, Bart is 4 for 10 with a double, a pair of home runs and five RBIs. I understand that three games doesn’t mean much, but the Pirates obviously like Bart. According to general manager Ben Cherington, they talked with the Giants about acquiring his services dating back to the offseason.

However, an even further wrinkle developed on Wednesday. Bart was originally in the Pirates’ lineup for their afternoon matchup against the New York Mets. Manager Derek Shelton told members of the media, including Hannah Mears of SportsNet Pittsburgh, that Bart was hit in the head with a homerun ball during batting practice while catching a bullpen.

If the fluke injury requires Bart to land on the injured list, it would be fairly safe to assume Grandal would not be ready to take his spot as he looks to get caught up to speed.

If Bart isn’t put on the injured list, the Pirates would have to risk losing him to another team as he’s out of minor-league options.

The Pirates still have some time to decide the best course of action, but an interesting dilemma is soon coming their way.

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