Pirates promote catcher Stallings for MLB debut

Pirates promote catcher Stallings for MLB debut

CHICAGO -- The Pirates found themselves with one available catcher on Saturday night and an emergency option who's never crouched behind the plate in his professional career.

The Pirates remedied that issue by calling up catcher Jacob Stallings from Triple-A Indianapolis on Sunday. Stallings made his Major League debut on Sunday night, starting behind the plate against the Cubs.

"Sunday night in Wrigley, that's pretty cool," Stallings said before finishing 0-for-4 in his debut and a 10-5 loss. "I came here when I was a kid to watch a game one time. That's the only time I've been here."

Stallings, 26, received word from Indianapolis manager Dean Treanor on Saturday night that he'd been called up. He hopped on a direct flight from Charlotte, N.C., to Chicago. He told his family, and they made it here before he did.

Stallings has always been close with his father, new University of Pittsburgh basketball coach Kevin Stallings, who tweeted that his son's callup was the "Best Father's Day gift ever!"

Drafted out of the University of North Carolina as a senior in 2012, Stallings has spent much of his Minor League career splitting time behind the plate. Making his ascent to the Majors even more unlikely, the Pirates entered the year with plenty of catching depth, if not an outright surplus.

Prospect Elias Diaz would have been the starter in Triple-A, but he's been out all year with an elbow injury. Francisco Cervelli is sidelined following surgery to repair a fractured hamate bone. That left Chris Stewart, who has been battered behind the plate to the point that he needs a few days of total rest for his aching left knee.

"My mentality in the offseason was I'm one injury away from maybe being a September callup or something like that. I just need to be ready," Stallings said. "As things unfolded throughout the season and Spring Training, I knew it was possible. I don't think it's hit me even still yet. It's really exciting."

The Pirates already went outside their organization for one catcher, acquiring Erik Kratz from the Angels last week. Now, they'll turn to Stallings, who had been responsible for catching the Pirates' top pitching prospects: Tyler Glasnow, Chad Kuhl and Jameson Taillon, who started for the Pirates on Sunday.

"That makes it a little easier," said Stallings, who went right to work studying the Cubs' lineup. "Not too much, but a little easier."

Having two playable catchers will make life easier for Hurdle, who on Saturday found himself manipulating his lineup to keep Kratz and Sean Rodriguez (the emergency catcher) on the field.

"We brought Stallings in because we need to give Stewart some time down, time down off that knee," Hurdle said. "Hopefully it's a minimal period of time down. That being said, it's not a very comfortable position to have one catcher on the field."

To make room for Stallings, the Pirates optioned infielder Jason Rogers to Triple-A Indianapolis. Rogers was called up Saturday as part of a series of roster moves.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.