BRADENTON, Fla. — Over the offseason, the Pirates made a trade for infielder Yamaico Navarro from the Kansas City Royals in return for hard throwing righty prospect Brooks Pounders and international minor leaguer Diego Goris.
“I was a little bit surprised, but I’m very happy here,”Navarro said. “Ball’s a little different [in the National League].”
Navarro is battling for a utility bench job this spring with the Bucs. The 24-year-old has made appearances at third, short, second, right and left field during Grapefruit League action.
“The versatility jumps out at you,” Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle said. “I think the fact that not only does he have a skill set that we’re looking at, we’ll see if we can put it into play now, but we think there’s one there that can develop over time.”
Navarro hit .264 with 11 doubles, seven home runs and 22 RBI over 59 games in 2011 between Triple-A Pawtucket (Red Sox) and Triple-A Omaha (Royals). He also hit for a .250 batting average in 22 Major League games (16 with Boston and six with Kansas City) with a homer and nine RBI.
In his Major League career, Navarro has made 20 appearances at third base, 19 at shortstop and three at second base.
“We’re trying to find the best spot for him,” Hurdle said. “We think he might profile a little bit better at second if we can pull that off. He can play third. We’ve seen that. He’s actually managed the ball very well in the outfield, the games we’ve had him out there…He started off real hot, but the bat’s alive up there. It’s a good-looking young player.”
“Versatility is always a plus on your bench. To have guys that are able to do more than just give a guy a day off when they come in. The fact that you can move them around in-game if you’ve got them in, double switch. You’ve got more opportunities in different spots to utilize them. Stretch out your lineup. In game strategies late…He’s handled himself very professional since he’s been here.”
After a hot start to the spring, prior to the Pirates 8-6 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, Navarro fizzled at the plate and was batting just .059 over his last 10 games. However, on Thursday Navarro went 3-for-4 on the day with a solo-home run off righty James Shields and a two-run single while playing second base. The big day at the plate pushed his average from .241 to .300.
“We had him trying to incorporate a little knee tuck that he had earlier that he got away from for whatever reason,” Hurdle said after the game. “He put it back into play yesterday, and I think there was some benefit today. Gave him better timing, gave him better balance at the plate. He put some good swings on the ball today. That was really good to see.”
“I want to play in the big leagues this year,” Navarro said. “I play hard. I’m working hard.”
Bedard Get’s Opening Day Nod
After the Pirates 8-6 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays’, Manager Clint Hurdle announced that lefty Erik Bedard will get the Opening Day start for the Pirates on April 5 at PNC Park against the Philadelphia Phillies.
Hurdle said they originally had planned on giving the ball to right-hander A.J. Burnett to start the season, but had to shuffle the rotation after he underwent right eye surgery.
It will be Bedard’s third Opening Day start in his career. He also got the nod in 2008 with the Seattle Mariners, and in 2007 with the Baltimore Orioles.
Following Bedard in the rotation will be Jeff Karstens for game two, James McDonald for game three (both against the Phillies). Kevin Correia will make the fourth start, the first road game of the season against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Right-hander Charlie Morton will make his third Grapefruit League start on Friday. Hurdle said they will evaluate where he is, then determine who will follow Correia in the rotation. Morton had offseason surgery on his left hip.
Injury update: Jose Morales
Catcher Jose Morales took batting practice today at McKechnie Field. Morales, who has been sidelined with a left oblique strain since the start of spring training, hit from the right side only. The switch-hitting catcher has not yet hit from the left side.