"He exceeded our expectations defensively, but offensively the results weren't there," Bucs general manager Neal Huntington said at the end of a busy Tuesday morning. "In our minds, the right thing to do to get him back on track was to have him start the season in Indianapolis."
Lambo was one of three players optioned to Indianapolis as the proverbial Grim Reaper made its way through the Pirates' McKechnie Field clubhouse, cutting a total of 11 in its wake.
Also optioned to the Triple-A club were outfielder Jaff Decker and right-handed reliever Jared Hughes.
Reassigned to the Minor League camp were lefty relievers Adam Wilk and Dan Schlereth; right-handers Jay Jackson and Zack Thornton; infielders Michael Martinez and Robert Andino; catcher Omir Santos; and outfielder Chris Dickerson.
Even with the large-scale cuts, the Pirates still have 31 players remaining in camp. Regular-season 25-man rosters must be set by 3 p.m. ET Sunday.
Lambo's departure signifies that Travis Ishikawa has overcome an injury-delayed start to earn a job as the left-handed-hitting complement to Gaby Sanchez at first base. Ishikawa did not make his first Grapefruit League appearance until Game 12 on March 9, and has gone 8-for-24 (.333), with three home runs.
"As we sit here today, yes," Huntington said. "We've got a while before we have to finalize anything, but if that's where we end up, we'll be comfortable with that. Travis had a good spring. He gives you a good quality, professional at-bat, handles himself well around the base."
Ishikawa was invited to camp on a Minor League contract, and someone will have to be lopped off the full 40-man roster to create a spot for him. Of the 17 non-roster players the Pirates had in camp, he is the last bona fide survivor (catcher Nevin Ashley is also still in camp, but primarily to help with pitchers' sideline work).
Lambo will remain at first base with the Indians and still figures in the Pirates' long-range plans. Huntington conceded the emphasis on his defensive conversion, and the attention paid to it, may have affected his bat work.
"We have to appreciate that it could have," the GM said. "We threw a lot at him, asking him to tackle a new position and compete to make the Major League club at the same time. He needs to take a deep breath and go back to being the guy we still believe he's going to be."
While Lambo departs at the end of a lowlight spring, others trimmed on Tuesday approached the exit from a higher plateau. Taking a step back, Huntington recognized that he had to cut players who only a few years ago could have been set for a heroic welcome to Pittsburgh when the club headed north.
"Today's hard, and as we've gotten better, this day has gotten harder," said Huntington. "We had any number of guys who don't deserve being sent out of camp.
"Martinez [10-for-his-last-21 and .382 overall] is certainly one of those guys. Dickerson [.355] deserves to be a big league player. Decker is a good baseball player, does just about everything on the field well. Schlereth [0.00 ERA in seven appearances] and Wilk [0.90 ERA in 10 innings] ... you can't say enough good things about them."
It does, however, say something good about the team's depth.
"As we learned a year ago [the Pirates went through 27 pitchers and 22 position players], we're gonna need a lot more than 25 players this year," Huntington said. "We feel really good about the next wave of guys coming up to help us, and to keep us on track."