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Jose Manuel Pirela
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 11", Weight 210 lb.
Jose Pirela was signed by the New York Yankees as an amateur free agent out of Venezuela on July 2, 2006. Only 16 at the time, he waited until 2007 to make his professional debut, when he hit .273 in 65 games for the DSL Yankees 1. he moved to the United States and the GCL Yankees in 2008 and by 2009 was playing regularly for the Charleston RiverDogs of the South Atlantic League where he hit .295 in 97 games while splitting time between shortstop and second base. he was still just 19 and seemed on a fast track to the majors, but it took him a little longer than expected to climb the next few steps up the organizational ladder.
In 2010, he played 130 games for the Tampa Yankees of the Florida State League but his batting average fell to .252. All wasn't bad however, as he hit 13 triples, drew 57 walks and stole 30 bases while playing mainly shortstop. he moved up to AA and the Trenton Thunder in 2011, but his average fell some more, to .239 with an OBP of .292 in 128 games. He was still over three years younger than the average player at the level, but the Yankees were concerned about his lack of progress, especially as he committed 37 errors at shortstop. He repeated the level in 2012 and improved to .293 in 82 games. His OBP also rose, to a very good .356 and he also banged 19 doubles and 8 homers.In spite of the improvement, he was back with the same team in 2013, this time hitting .272 in 124 games. By then he was playing second base almost full-time, and other parts of his game were progressing as well, as attested by his power (27 doubles, 5 triples and 10 homers, a .359 OBP and 18 stolen bases in 21 attempts). The Yankees also gave him 5 games in AAA with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. He then spent all of 2014 in the International League with Scranton, hitting .305/.351/.441 in 130 games to give a clear indication that he was ready for the Show. In expecting him to be needed as a back-up at multiple positions in the majors, the Yankees had him play all over the field, with games at all three outfield spots and first base in addition to his more familiar role in the middle infield. He continued to show good power, with 21 doubles, 11 triples and 10 homers, while scoring 87 runs and driving in 60. After the IL playoffs, he was called up to New Yankee Stadium.
Pirela had a very good major league debut starting at DH for the New York Yankees against the Baltimore Orioles on September 22, 2014. Batting 9th, he went 2 for 3 with 2 runs and 1 RBI in a 5-0 win, with his first hit being a triple off Wei-Yin Chen in his first career at-bat in the 3rd inning. He was the last of 234 players to make their debut in 2014. He hit .333 (8 for 24) with a double and a pair of triples in 7 games - four at second base and three as a DH - to make an excellent early impression.
In spring training of 2015, Jose was in competition for a role as a utility player for the team and was doing very well, hitting .370 in 14 Grapefruit League games, when he suffered a scary injury on March 22nd. Playing in centerfield against the Mets, he ran into the fence at full speed trying to chase down a drive off the bat of Juan Lagares, the first batter of the game for the Mets. He banged his head against the ground after the initial contact with the wall, and had to be taken to hospital, but he was lucky to escape with only a concussion. For his part, Lagares circled the bases with an inside-the-park homer. Pirela met reporters a couple of days later and explained that he was fine, except for some soreness in his back and neck, although he would need to be tested for any after-effects of the concussion before being allowed back on the field. He began the season in the minor leagues at the end of April, playing at three levels in the span of 10 days before returning to New Yankee Stadium in early May. On June 7th, he hit his first major league home run off C.J. Wilson of the Los Angeles Angels, in a 6-2 Yankees win. Overall, he played 37 games for New York, hitting .230; he laso hit .310 in 64 minor league games for three different teams. On November 11th he was traded to the San Diego Padres for Ronald Herrera.