CLEARWATER, Fla. – Catcher Eric Fryer worked on incorporating a leg kick over the offseason. During the Fall Instructional League, which is held at Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida, Fryer said it was one of his main focuses.
“Mainly I really focused on hitting, trying to work in a slight leg kick, trying to keep more weight back and really stay behind the baseball when I’m swinging,” Fryer said. “It’s kind of transferred over right now. It’s just a matter of putting it all in the game, and hopefully it takes off down the stretch.”
“It definitely took a while to get used to. When I was down in Instructs, while getting work in at third base there, they had me do it there and just gradual [over] a little bit of time, it just came together.”
Although he has spent most of his professional career behind the plate, Fryer made 16 appearances as catcher with Double-A Altoona Curve. He also made 11 appearances in right field in Altoona during the 2011 season. Although he felt shaky in the outfield at first, Fryer, who has also made several appearances in right during Grapefruit League action this spring to improve on his versatility, is getting more comfortable out there.
“It’s always nice to get reps out there because obviously the more time you spend at a position, the better you get,” Fryer said. “The first couple times always feel a little shaky, but once you get a couple games thrown in under my belt it’s going to be okay.”
“Definitely down the stretch, if you’re one of the last guys to come off the bench, or on the roster, they want guys that can play different positions. Double switches in the National League is always a big thing. Also, guys might need a little time off so being able to play different positions definitely helps.”
After starting the season in Altoona, where he hit for a .345 clip, Fryer was promoted to Triple-A Indy on May 30. Just 21 games later, Fryer got the call to the Majors, where he made his debut behind the plate against the Boston Red Sox on June 24. The 26-year-old went 0-for-3 with a walk, and threw out a runner trying to steal against him that day. Fryer said that although the 2011 season was a crazy experience, it was also an invaluable one.
“It was kind of a whirl wind,” Fryer said. “Double-A was great. I had a blast year. Before I knew it, I was in Triple-A. When I started getting comfortable in Triple-A, they moved me up to the big leagues. It was definitely a crazy experience, but I definitely think I’m better for it. I learned a lot in all the levels that I was at, and hopefully I can improve on this year and move forward.”
“I think the big part was just game preparation there,” Fryer said on his biggest learning experience from being in the Majors. “Just kind of the research that goes in to preparing for a hitters, pitchers, just everything. Making sure all your ducks are in a row. You really want to make sure that you’re as prepared as can be before going into the game, otherwise you’re just kind of going blind and that makes it a lot tougher that way.”
So far this spring, Fryer has gone 7-for-22 (.318 avg) with three RBI and two walks over 16 games. With less than a week away until Opening Day, Fryer is one of 34 players that remain at big league camp. The 26-year-old will most likely be slated to start the season at Triple-A Indianapolis.
“Spring, I really just wanted to be healthy,” Fryer said of his goals. “Go out there show I can play, show I can belong at this level. Then hopefully where the chips fall, it’s not my decision or anything, wherever they fall, I just want to get off to a good start. A lot of times in the past, I’ve been kind of a slow starter. The first month of the season, I really want to try and take off this year right from the beginning.”
Burnett Slated to Pitch Minor League Game
Right-hander A.J. Burnett continues to take steps forward after undergoing right eye surgery in February. Burnett pitched a two inning, 48 pitch simulated game this morning at Pirate City without issue. He is scheduled to pitch three innings on Sunday in a minor league spring training game.
“I talked to [Pitching Coach] Ray [Searage],” Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle said. “Ray said it was very good, very efficient. The breaking ball, his off-speed stuff came into play better the second inning. Just replicated the delivery and arm slot and things like that. He was very encouraged by the outing.”
Karstens’ Strikes out 10 in Minor League Game
Right-hander Jeff Karstens pitched against Triple-A Dunedin (Toronto Blue Jays) today. The decision to start Karstens against a minor league team today instead of against the Phillies was to get the relievers more work, and build up Karstens pitch count.
Over 7.1 innings, Karstens scattered three hits and gave up no runs. He walked two and struck out 10 batters while throwing 98 pitches.
“You take these opportunities where you’re going to jump their pitch counts up,” Hurdle said. “It best just to it in that kind of environment like we did with [Kevin] Correia [Monday]. They’re going to get their pitches. They’re going to get their 100 pitches. It’s not all result oriented. They can work on something’s, and then next time out they can go ahead and face competition once they get that stretched out feeling underneath them.”
Tough Lefties Coming Up
On Opening Day April 5 at PNC Park, the Pittsburgh Pirates are set to face the Philadelphia Phillies for a three-game set, before heading to the West Coast to face the Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants and Arizona Diamondbacks for a nine-game, 11 day road trip.
The Pirates will face some of the toughest lefties in the National League — Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels of the Phillies, Clayton Kershaw and Ted Lilly of the Dodgers — out of the chute this season. Pirates General Manager Neal Huntington said that Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle may set some of the young lefty hitters against some of the starters.
“We face a lot of left-handed starters early,” Huntington said. “I don’t anticipate a platoon setting. We may protect some of our young left-handed hitters against the likes of Kershaw and Lee, and [Madison] Bumgarner if we end up matching up with him in San Francisco. That’s just managing.”
“I’m sure the next question is going to be, ‘is it a platoon setting?’ No. It’s not a platoon setting for Alex Presley sits against a left-handed starter. It’s not a platoon setting for Pedro [Alvarez] if Clint sits him against a left-handed starter. It’s keeping guys fresh. It’s keeping guys sharp coming out of spring training. It’s giving the bench players the opportunity to get out there and play. That’s putting your club in a position to be successful, and he may do that out of the chute with our young left-handed hitters.”