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Pirates notebook: Kevin Kramer among final wave of call-ups

October 2, 2018

Pirates infielders Kevin Kramer (left) and Kevin Newman work out before a gameagainst the Reds Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018, at PNC Park.

When the Pittsburgh Pirates picked them in the first two rounds of the 2015 draft, the lame jokes and bad puns came fast and furious.

First-rounder Kevin Newman. Second-rounder Kevin Kramer. At some point in the future, the Pirates might field a lineup with an all-“Seinfeld” middle infield.

Nirvana for ’90s sitcom fans could be right around the corner.

On Tuesday, Kramer was one of six players promoted from Triple-A as the Pirates made their second and final round of September call-ups. Indianapolis’ season ended Monday afternoon.

In addition to Kramer, the Pirates called up catcher Ryan Lavarnway, outfielder Jordan Luplow and pitchers Tanner Anderson, Michael Feliz and Clay Holmes.

“To play in the middle at the same time, you’re probably going to see it this month,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “Where it goes from there, time will tell.”

Like Newman, who has been on the big league roster since Aug. 16, Kramer is coming off a superb season with Indianapolis.

He was third in the International League with a .311 batting average, hitting 35 doubles and 15 home runs in 129 games.

Kramer hit for average throughout his trip up the Pirates minor league system, but the extra-base prowess was a fairly new development. He said his success started with a change in mindset early in the year.

“I struggled a bunch in May,” Kramer said. “For me, it was big to start adjusting timing-wise instead of always focusing on mechanical issues and stuff like that. I started to slowly concern myself with how on time I was with the pitcher.”

Kramer, who was drafted as a shortstop, played mostly at second base this season. Hurdle said Kramer would be used at second and third this month.

“We want him to become a dependable fielder,” Hurdle said before drawing a comparison to another Pirates prospect who switched to second base as he made his way up through the minors. “Neil Walker became a very dependable second baseman.”

Catching up

Of the six players called up Tuesday, Kramer and Lavarnway had to be added to the 40-man roster. Left-handed reliever Buddy Boshers, who was claimed from Houston on waivers last month, was designated for assignment to make room.

Lavarnway’s promotion was tied to backup catcher Elias Diaz’s hamstring injury, which has kept him out since last Friday.

“Could he bounce back and play again? I don’t know. I don’t know,” Hurdle said. “If he’s back in 10 days, great. If he’s not, we really don’t want to navigate with two catchers through the last month. If he shows the ability to come back and play, he’s going to play and we’ll have four.”

Lavarnway is a 31-year-old veteran with 160 major league games to his credit, mostly with Boston. He hit .288 with a .375 on-base percentage and .485 slugging percentage with Indianapolis this season.

Taillon honored

Pitcher Jameson Taillon was named the Pirates’ nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, which is given to the player who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team.”

Taillon, a testicular cancer survivor, has been involved in a variety of initiatives to raise money to fight the disease. Most notably, he created his own blend at Commonplace Coffee with proceeds going to Lending Hearts, a charity that supports teens and young adults with cancer.

“Through the adversity he’s had, he understands he’s got a particular platform that not many have,” Hurdle said.

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