Huntington on Meadows: We’re in a win-now mode

Pirates GM addresses sending rookie OF back to AAA

Josh Rowntree
July 15, 2018 - 3:16 pm
Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Austin Meadows (17) at the batting cage before playing the Milwaukee Brewers at PNC Park.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

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For Pirates general manager Neal Huntington, the decision to not play and, on Sunday, send Austin Meadows back to the minors is simply about winning.

“We’re in a win now mode,” Huntington said Sunday. "We’re fighting for our playoff lives and I support the staff in putting out the lineup every night that gives us the best chance to win that game.”

Prior to Sunday’s series finale against Milwaukee, Meadows had not started the previous seven games, including Pittsburgh’s doubleheader sweep Saturday.

Meadows got off to a blistering start, hitting .426 in 13 May games. In June, he batted .260 and, so far in July, he is hitting .233. 

"We thought he was probably just on the frontside of the readiness curve,” Huntington said of the initial decision to call up Meadows. "Then Austin went out and hit like Babe Ruth." 

With the stabilized health and increasing production of more veteran outfielders Starling Marte, Corey Dickerson and Gregory Polanco, Meadows has only had 12 at-bats since July 6.

"The past month, the comparison in production, there is no comparison,” Huntington said. "Those three have been tremendously production and, unfortunately, Austin hasn’t been. 

"In AAA, you play a guy despite his struggles if he’s a prospect, if he’s a guy you believe in the future. At the Major League level, when you’re in a competitive, win mode, you play the lineup that you think is going to give you thee best chance to win.”

That lineup has even included Jordan Luplow, who was recalled and made a trio of starts ahead of Meadows.  

But Huntington insists that there’s no lack of faith in what Meadows has done or what he can eventually become. 

"Our goal with Austin is to get him to a point where he’s ready to go, get him to a point where he’s ready to be in our lineup on a regular basis or his development is complete at AAA and the best remaining spot is as a role player if we have guys ahead of him,” he said.

Huntington is determined to not replicate the mistake he admits to making with Gregory Polanco in 2014 when the similarly highly touted prospect burst onto the scene before regressing significantly. 

Meadows’ production naturally leads to speculation that he could be brought back up if the Pirates choose to deal an outfielder at the trade deadline. Huntington was asked if Meadows’ performance changes the mindset approaching the deadline.

“No,” he replied with some hesitation. “Again, we’re thrilled with where Austin is going to go and to get this taste of Major League ballparks, Major League pitchers, Major League environment, Major League success and Major League struggles, are all great experiences for him.”

It is quite possible, however, the Meadows could be back in Pittsburgh even if a trade is not made. 

“I don’t envision us putting him in a fourth outfielder role at any point this year, but he could also force his hand,” Huntington added.

"Unfortunately, when we'll have another injury, because that’s the game, we’ll have a young man that’s had a great set of experiences and, provided he goes and continues to do what he’s done, he’ll put himself in an opportunity to be that guy.”

Hear more from Neal Huntington's talk with the media below.