Pirates Designate Ryan Vilade For Assignment


The Pirates announced Thursday that they’ve designated outfielder Ryan Vilade for assignment and selected the contracts of left-hander Rob Zastryzny and catcher Jason Delay, both of whom were in spring training as non-roster invitees. Lefty Jarlin Garcia (nerve injury) was placed on the 60-day injured list to open a second spot on the 40-man roster. Righties JT Brubaker (right elbow discomfort) and Robert Stephenson (right elbow inflammation) have both been placed on the 15-day injured list as well.

Vilade, 24, was claimed off waivers from the Rockies back in November. He ranked among Colorado’s best prospects just one year ago but struggled in his second go through the Triple-A level, slashing a tepid .249/.345/.352 with five homers and ten steals through 99 games in that hitter-friendly setting. Originally drafted as a shortstop, Vilade has moved down the defensive spectrum, first shifting to third base before a move to the outfield corners. He went just 3-for-18 without an extra-base hit this spring, finishing with a .167/.211/.167 line in 19 trips to the plate. The Pirates will have a week to trade Vilade, release him or pass him through outright waivers.

Zastryzny, 31, returned to the Majors in 2022 after a three-year layoff and tossed four innings between the Mets and Angels. He’s making the first Opening Day roster of his 10-year professional career, Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic points out (Twitter link). Zastryzny earned it this spring, punching out 10 of his 29 opponents against one walk while firing 7 1/3 innings without allowing an earned run.

In parts of four big league seasons, mostly with the Cubs, Zastryzny has a 4.66 ERA and a 34-to-17 K/BB ratio in 38 2/3 innings of work. His Triple-A numbers across six seasons are generally similar, albeit with slightly better strikeout and walk rates. Zastryzny will give manager Derek Shelton a second lefty in the ’pen, joining Rule 5 pick Jose Hernandez.

Delay, 28, made his big league debut with the Bucs in 2022 but was removed from the 40-man roster and re-signed to a minor league deal. He had a rough showing in camp, going just 3-for-20 with three walks, but he’s a strong defensive backstop and likely landed the backup gig by virtue of his glove. Delay posted plus framing marks last season, has a career 31% caught-stealing rate in the minors and was credited with two Defensive Runs Saved in 436 innings behind the dish last year. He beat out fellow non-roster invitees Kevin Plawecki and Tyler Heineman and will open the season as the backup to defensive standout Austin Hedges.

Garcia’s placement on the 60-day IL comes as little surprise. The team announced he’d be shut down midway through camp, and after a ten days of not throwing, they further announced that he was dealing with a nerve injury in his biceps and would continue to be shut down for as many as four to five weeks. He’ll need to completely build back up after that delay. Stephenson pitched just two innings this spring and was slowed by elbow discomfort, and Shelton acknowledged last week that an IL stint was likely.

There’s more concern with regard to Brubaker. Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette tweeted this morning that Brubaker’s elbow injury is “not minor” and the Pirates fear there’s a chance he could be lost for the season. The team hasn’t provided a formal diagnosis or update beyond today’s placement on the injured list, but additional news on Brubaker will likely follow in the near future. The 29-year-old Brubaker made 28 starts last season and pitched to a 4.69 ERA but with much more encouraging marks in FIP (3.92) and SIERA (3.97).

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