BRADENTON, Fla. — Over the offseason, the Pirates were looking to upgrade their defense both at shortstop and behind the plate. Clint Barmes and Rod Barajas signed with Pittsburgh, and so far this spring they have made the staff better.
Barmes, 33, signed a two-year deal in November. Since 2003, Barmes has posted a 7.2 career UZR/150 at shortstop in over 3700 innings.
“Barmes is just a dependable defender,” Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle said. “Very, very dependable. Very solid. He’s going to make our third baseman better, our second baseman better. He’s going to make our staff better. He’s very active, and very vocal in the diamond.”
“Clint is outstanding at shortstop back there. You know he’s going to make some good plays for you,” added right-hander Kevin Correia, who is known for being a ground ball pitcher.
Barajas, 36, and the Pirates agreed to a one-year deal with a club option for the 2013 season in November. The veteran catcher has spent parts of 13 seasons in the big leagues, posting a .993 fielding percentage over 966 games since 1999.
“I think these two guys are going to make us that much better,” Hurdle said. “Barajas, he’s sold out to the staff. He’s got a history of being solid behind the plate defensively, and he takes his bat up there. This guy, he goes up there with intentions to do things offensively as well.”
“Rod, he’s been around,” Correia said. “I didn’t throw to him one time until a game started. Now, I’ve thrown to him to where we’re pretty much on the same page. It’s really helpful to be out there and be on the same page as your catcher.”
Correia, who got the win in the Pirates 3-2 victory over the Phillies on Friday with Barajas behind the plate, said adjusting to different catchers can be difficult.
“Sometimes it is. Just because they don’t know what you throw,” Correia said. “Every guy is different. It’s easier to do it in spring, obviously, than last year when we had to do it during the season a lot. He’s an older guy that’s been around. It definitely helps. They kind of figure out what you’re doing a lot quicker than a younger guy would.”
McGehee Gets Start at First
Infielder Casey McGehee got the start at first base today against the Philadelphia Phillies at McKechnie Field. McGehee, who has primarily played third base his Major League career, has been working hard at first base, where he will platoon with Garrett Jones to start the season.
“He takes a lot of pride in his defense,” Hurdle said. “The challenges was him moving on the other side of the diamond. He’s worked extremely hard at it. He’s one of those guys, the ball seems to go in and it stays there.”
McPherson Pitches Scoreless 7th
Right-hander Kyle McPherson pitched an inning of relief in the Pirates 3-2 win over the Phillies on Friday. McPherson was scratched from his scheduled outing on Monday with dead arm like symptoms. The 24-year-old gave up a hit in his inning of work.
“I haven’t seen any gun readings, but he looked fine,” Hurdle said. “He said he felt much better. He’s ready to go.”
Cruzin’ in the ‘pen
Right-hander Juan Cruz has made four appearances this spring in the Grapefruit League for the Bucs. Over five innings, the veteran pitcher has allowed one run on two hits with a walk and four strikeouts. He will be battling for a spot in the Bucs bullpen this spring in hopes of breaking camp with the big league club.
Cruz has spent the parts of 11 seasons in the Majors, most recently with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2011. He posted a 3.88 ERA over 48.2 innings in relief.
“He’s got experience,” Hurdle said on Cruz. “The arm is still alive. There’s still velocity. There’s still some movement, and he’s got two pitches that he can go to for put aways. Other than the fastball, he can spin the ball and throw the change-up. He’s got the confidence to throw them behind in the count.
Cabrera Battling Back from Injuries
Like Cruz, righty Daniel Cabrera signed a minor league deal over the offseason with the spring training invite to battle for a spot in the Bucco bullpen. However, his chance to compete was delayed with right forearm tightness. Cabrera also missed the entire 2011 season recovering from Tommy John surgery.
During an outing at Pirate City for a ‘B’ game on Saturday, Cabrera was touching 92-95 with his fastball. He’s made one appearance in the Grapefruit League this spring where he allowed a hit and a walk over an inning of relief.
But because of his injuries, Hurdle said it will be hard for him to catch up with the other competition in the bullpen.
“He hasn’t pitched in a year,” Hurdle said. “You got to be optimistic, but you need to be realistic. The fact that he spent the time working and getting himself back where he’s out competing, that’s the biggest step for him. Now, it’s just him going out and getting pitches, getting opportunities to pitch. It was a long shot coming in, but the fact that he’s healthy, we like having him in the organization. We’ll see how it plays out. The health is the biggest thing. The guy’s had success in the big leagues. The arm’s live, and there is more arm there then what we’ve seen from him so far. It’s just that transfer from bullpen work to game work…He’s got a presence. He lets it fly. It can be very challenging.”