Grossman has started 20 of 21 games for Houston since being called up.
Outfielder Robbie Grossman will make his PNC Park debut Friday night in the leadoff spot, five years after the Pirates drafted him in the sixth round.
He won’t take the field in black and gold, but rather in blue and orange.
Almost four years after he signed with the Pirates out of high school for $1 million, Grossman was traded to Houston (with pitching prospects Colton Cain and Rudy Owens) for left-hander Wandy Rodriguez. Grossman said he was “very surprised” when the deal was made, but debuted at Minute Maid Park on April 24, just a half-hour drive from his alma mater Cy-Fair High School outside Houston.
“It was pretty special for me and my family,” Grossman said, who now lives just five minutes from the ballpark.
Now Grossman returns to face the Pirates organization that brought him up. After a slow start to his minor league career, Grossman broke out in 2011, his second year with High-A Bradenton. The switch-hitter showed uncommon plate discipline, becoming the first minor leaguer since Nick Swisher (2004) to have 100 walks in a season. He also hit a career-high 13 homers in 2011 and placed as Pittsburgh’s No. 6 overall prospect by Pirates Prospects before being promoted to Double-A Altoona.
Though he calls his first game against the Pirates “just another ballgame,” Grossman was excited to see former teammate Starling Marte. The two outfielders started a friendship when Marte made his U.S. debut in 2009 and have kept in touch since Grossman was traded last July.
“We’re rooting for each other,” Grossman said.
Grossman is one of four Astros players who have been with the Pirates organization within the last two years, joined by shortstop Ronny Cedeño and pitchers Erik Bedard and Jose Veras. Bedard is scheduled to be Saturday’s starting pitcher (Veras is in Houston’s bullpen and Cedeño is on the bench) and said he was looking forward to seeing some of his Pirates teammates from last year.”
“That was a good team last year, so it was a lot of fun,” Bedard said.
With Bedard being on last year’s Pirates team, Grossman a former farmhand and Veras and Cedeño on the roster in 2011, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle noted the coaches know all four guys “very well.” Does it give the Bucs an extra advantage?
“You might have a little bit more in-depth [analysis] because you’ve been more hands on,” Hurdle said. “You’ve got to execute at this level… regardless of how much knowledge you have on them.
Gomez, uh, Goes
Jeanmar Gomez makes his fourth start of the season Friday night. His numbers as a starter have been impressive (1.93 ERA, 11 strikeouts, five walks in 14 innings), but only the Brewers have been an above-average opponent according to wRC+. Hurdle said he liked the frame, pitchability and bounce-back factor with Gomez after acquiring him from the Cleveland Indians.
Still, Gomez stands as one of many pitchers the Pirates have signed for under $2.5 million that are performing well in 2013, along with Jason Grilli, Francisco Liriano, Mark Melancon and Vin Mazzaro. Hurdle credited the work of pitching coach Ray Searage, pitching coordinator Scott Mitchell and Jim Benedict, who is a special assistant to the general manager, for the Pirates’ success with inexpensive pitchers.
“Some things force you to do things differently than other organizations,” Hurdle said. “Could be payroll, where do you think you need to add depth… We need to be open-minded. We need to be creative, and we need to trust what we believe in.”
Bucs In Camo
Since the Pirates will be in Milwaukee for Memorial Day weekend, they will use this weekend to honor the United States military. You will see the Bucs in camouflage jerseys Friday night, just as they wore last year for Memorial Day weekend. On Saturday, the first 25,000 fans at PNC Park will receive an A.J. Burnett camouflage jersey, and on Sunday, kids age 14 and younger will get their own replica Burnett camo jersey.
Astros Make Moves
Lucas Harrell (5.11 ERA, 29 strikeouts in 49.1 innings) will start Sunday against the Pirates instead of Bud Norris, the scheduled starter and Houston’s strikeout and ERA leader. Norris was moved to Tuesday because he has been dealing with lower back spasms, and manager Bo Porter did not want him to risk getting hurt by hitting or running the bases, according to the Houston Chronicle‘s Brian T. Smith.
Keep in mind that this is an interleague series, as 2013 is Houston’s first season in the American League West division. The Pirates posted a winning record in interleague play the last two seasons and are 18-7 in their last 25 home games against the Astros. Houston has the worst road record in the Major Leagues this season at 5-14.
All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve will be activated Saturday after missing a few days due to the death of his grandmother, according to MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart. Jake Elmore, who is starting at second base, will return to Triple-A.
Houston Astros (11-30, 5th place in AL West, 16 games out)
Really? 16 games out?
CF Robbie Grossman (.205)
2B Jake Elmore (.375)
C Jason Castro (.241)
RF Chris Carter (.217, team-high 9 homers)
LF J.D. Martinez (.246)
1B Carlos Peña (.231)
3B Matt Dominguez (.245)
SS Marwin Gonzalez (.250)
RHP Jordan Lyles (8.36 ERA, 13 K, 6 BB in 14 IP)
Pittsburgh Pirates (24-17, 3rd place in NL Central, 2.5 games out)
LF Starling Marte (.315)
RF Travis Snider (.292)
CF Andrew McCutchen (.265)
1B Garrett Jones (.284)
2B Neil Walker (.255)
C Russell Martin (.274, 6 homers)
3B Pedro Alvarez (.188, 6 homers)
SS Clint Barmes (.234)
RHP Jeanmar Gomez (2.28 ERA, 18 K, 12 BB in 27.2 IP)