It might be time for the PNC Park DJ to dust off his Dean Martin album. Francisco Cervelli continues to progress from a concussion sustained in late May and is nearing a potential rehab assignment.
Neal Huntington held court with reporters at PNC Park Sunday afternoon before the Pirates' series finale against the Padres, tackling that topic and much more. Among the talking points were the team's approach to the trade deadline, their "fight" and "resiliency" this season and the potential to use an opener again.
Read some of those highlights below, then fire up the full video embedded at the bottom of the article to hear the entire unedited session.
• On potential trade deadline acquisitions: "We're in a situation where we've played, what, 20-plus games against the teams we're trailing in the division. We are getting healthy. The offense has turned a nice corner. The pitching, when we get back to what we were in April, we're going to be an interesting club and a fun club. So yes, it's early to decide if we're going to add to this year's club or look to add to next year's, future clubs beyond that."
• On Cervelli: "Physically, he told us he feels great from a body standpoint. Obviously he's been down from baseball for a little bit, so a rehab would make all the sense in the world. We've still got a few medical and administrative boxes to check, but he could very well go down and rehab this week if everything goes well ... We need to be really cognizant that Francisco Cervelli's going to be a 'former baseball player' a lot longer than he is a baseball player, and we want to do everything in our power to ensure that he has a good post-playing career. That's very meaningful to us."
• On getting Joe Musgrove additional rest day: "The bigger picture as we come off a stretch where we played, what, 45 games in 46 days, the three off days will allow us to get some additional rest for not only our starters but our bullpen. As we look at this bigger picture, we're looking at the rest of the season and not just a one-game start."
• On potentially using opener again: "The opener concept still has value. It's just a matter of what the matchups are, how your staff is aligned, how your bullpen's aligned. The opener, theoretically, you feel better about him getting those first three to five hitters out than you do about your guy who would start that game. So conceptually the opener has value. It is an option for us, although I think as we look forward, we'll probably go more of a true starter and get the depth that we can out of him and then build the bullpen in behind him and try to win a ballgame."
• On Steven Brault's improvements: "With Steven, if he attacks the zone with confidence, he has weapons to get Major League hitters out. When he nibbles and gets behind in the count, as really almost any pitcher does, they put the hitters at the advantage. Steven needs to continue to attack the zone and utilize his weapons."
• On team's challenges this year: "When you list off everything that this club's had work against it — some self-created, myself included, and some not self-created — and to still be within striking distance, to still be within a good two-week run of a division lead and some very good teams ahead of us, it speaks to the resilience and it speaks to what could come together. Now, we have to make it come together and again, as I said before, we have a stretch of really interesting games coming into All-Star break. Now would be a good time to play really well and close the gap and put us in a good spot."
• Who has been the most pleasant surprise this season? "Man, that's an interesting one, because if I say Bryan Reynolds then I've omitted Josh Bell. If I say Josh Bell I've omitted Bryan Reynolds and I've omitted Kevin Newman. But it's been fun to watch the young players come into their own. It's been fun to watch Bryan Reynolds come up with very little Triple-A experience and just keep hitting but also keep playing good defense. It's been great to see Josh Bell just become the offensive player that our room thought he could become as well as becoming a better defensive player and becoming one of the team leaders as his intelligence and his work ethic gets recognized. Watch Felipe Vazquez continue to be one of the best relievers in the game or watch [Kyle Crick] continue to grow, Jordan Lyles, obviously we believed he could start and wanted to give him that opportunity and we're looking forward to what he can do coming out."
Full Neal Huntington session | June 23
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