Pirates hit by injuries in winter ball

Pirates hit by injuries in winter ball

PITTSBURGH -- The injury bug has already bitten the Pirates' organization early in the fall and winter ball seasons as prospects Jim Negrych and Eric Krebs both were sidelined due to injuries earlier this month and remain out of action.

The severity of each injury, however, significantly differs.

Negrych, who was honored as the Pirates' Minor League Player of the Year at the end of the 2008 Minor League season, has been nursing a finger injury since Oct. 10. Negrych, one of seven players from the organization playing in Hawaii this offseason, jammed the finger while sliding into a base.

X-rays on the finger came back negative, confirming that nothing was broken. As a result, the 23-year-old infielder has begun taking batting practice again and should be able to return in a designated hitter role within the next few days.

Prior to the injury, Negrych was 9-for-33 with three RBIs and six walks in 10 games for the West Oahu CaneFires. His primary focus in Hawaii was defensive-oriented, as Negrych continues to make the transition from third base to second. The hope is that Negrych will be able to return to the field soon after he can return as a DH.

The prognosis for Krebs' Hawaiian Winter Baseball season is not as promising. After pitching one-third of an inning of relief on Oct. 7, the right-hander was shut down with inflammation in his right elbow. Krebs, a 16th-round Draft pick in 2005, has not pitched since and will be examined by doctors in Pittsburgh likely before the end of the week.

It's almost certain that Krebs will not return to Hawaii to finish out the final three weeks of the CaneFires' season. Regardless, Pirates director of player development Kyle Stark remains optimistic that the injury will not be a long-term concern.

"I don't think there is going to be an issue that will affect next year," Stark said. "But it's likely going to have him shut down for the rest of the time out there [in Hawaii]."

Krebs made a total of three relief appearances in Hawaii, logging 3 1/3 innings and allowing two runs on five hits. He finished with three strikeouts and three walks allowed.

This setback came after a successful 2008 season in which Krebs finished with a 4.11 ERA and a two-to-one strikeout-to-walk ratio while pitching for Class A Lynchburg.

Despite these two setbacks, the Pirates have plenty of other players making impressive statements in a variety of winter ball leagues.

No one hit the ground running better than outfielder Jose Tabata, the high-ceiling prospect that the Pirates obtained in a trade with the Yankees back in July. Through Wednesday, Tabata had gone 10-for-22 in six games down in Venezuela. He has scored four times and driven in five.

Another Pittsburgh outfielder, Steve Pearce, has also started off strong. Pearce, who is playing half of the Mexican League season, has hit .333 with six doubles and seven RBIs in 10 games.

On a pitching note, Jeff Sues and Derek Hankins have each allowed one run in 5 1/3 innings of relief for the Scottsdale Scorpions of the Arizona Fall League. And in Hawaii, left-hander Kyle Bloom has allowed just four earned runs in four starts (15 innings) while striking out 13.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.