Pirates Turning to Sean Rodriguez for Athleticism at First Base

PITTSBURGH — From pretty much every angle, the John Jaso experiment has been a successful one for the Pirates. The former catcher made the switch to first base at the beginning of the season, and he’s acquitted himself well defensively, along with his expected offensive contributions.

“I’m coming along alright,” Jaso said of his continued tutelage at first base. “I’m feeling more and more comfortable every day. At the beginning in spring training, I did have some jitters out there and some butterflies, but it kind of just calmed down by getting reps out there and experience. I’m just getting more comfortable. I don’t think I’m the best in the game, but I think I can hold my weight over there.”

Jaso, is not, however, at the point where is finished learning. Manager Clint Hurdle has taken to using Sean Rodriguez as a defensive substitute in the late innings, especially when the Pirates are leading.

“I’m hoping to get to that point,” Jaso said. “If I get defensively substituted for, it’s happened to me my whole career as a catcher. I wasn’t the best catcher in the game, either. It’s always happened and I don’t care. It’s OK. It speaks a lot for the other guys, I think. Sean is a really good defender. If I was managing, I’d want to stack my defense, too. I don’t take offense to it at all.”

The Pirates, however, aren’t just interested in seeing Jaso maximize his potential with the glove. They also feel that they can use Rodriguez’ athleticism to do some things that almost no one else is doing at first base.

“We’re taking athleticism and putting it in a spot where a lot of guys don’t usually have it and we’re seeing how we can maximize that,” Rodriguez said. “So, it’s playing off the line a lot, trying to take that hole away from right-handed hitters, playing a little deeper against left-handed hitters that pull, you don’t have to play so far into the bag.”

Rodriguez, who is a natural shortstop but has played all over the diamond, said not to take first-base defense lightly.

“It’s definitely a lot harder than people see. Not only to play it but, to make every play. Because if you don’t, it comes down on you hard.”

The ability to push the envelope with defense does come with a cost. Several times, a late-game comeback by the opponent has meant that Rodriguez has come up to bat in high-leverage situations late in games. Hurdle said that he hopes to get Jaso to the point that he can play all nine innings at first base, but there isn’t anything specific Jaso is still working on.

“It’s nothing on John,” reiterated first-base coach Nick Leyva, who also coaches the infielders. “The range factor comes into play. When we shift, John’s [position] might be 20 feet off the bag, while Sean’s might be 30 feet off the bag. On a ground ball, he can still get to first base in plenty of time to make a play.”

Jaso said the team’s multitude of defenses and the inherent differences in an infield position from that of catcher just mean that there are lots of different things he’s yet to see at first base.

“It’s just that I haven’t had experience,” Jaso said. “I haven’t certain balls hit to me, I haven’t had to make certain throws that you can only replicate at game speed. That’s all it is is getting reps. I’m still new, I’m still learning the position. That’s the way it goes until you get that solid time under your belt.”

“Right now, there’s not even a thought in our mind of him not being able to play first base on the fundamental end of it,” Leyva said. “He’s turned the corner on it and he’s actually pretty good over there now.”

NOTES

Jeff Locke will face the San Francisco Giants and Madison Bumgarner Monday night. The Pirates have not yet announced a starter for Tuesday night against Johnny Cueto. Wilfredo Boscan is the scheduled starter for Triple-A Indianapolis and would be the prime candidate to take the spot of Juan Nicasio, who is expected to miss the start while on the restricted list.

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AttyMike

SR seems like an expensive luxury. Don’t they have someone from Indy who can provide position flexibility at a lower price? Hanson? Having SR play first is truly nibbling around the edges for the Bucs. They have much bigger problems than Jaso’s defensive inadequacies, if any, at 1B.

Brian K. Rhodes

I know Jaso is playing ok and SR is a decent defensive option. But why not just bring up Josh Bell now because he is the future. He probably won’t hurt you or be a dropoff offensively. They can still use SR as a defensive replacement until they feel comfortable with Bell playing all the time. I just don’t see enough positives in Jaso to keep him up here if Bell is ready. And Freese can still play most games against lefties.

RickParrish

I wish someone in the Pirates organization would send his athleticism down to Indianapolis and replace him with someone who can hit. He has not made a significant contribution to winning a game since May 1. What is he batting .100?? You can carry him if he can hit. If he doesn’t hit then you have a 9th inning glove. That’s about it.

Y2JGQ2

can someone explain to me what the hell Hurdle is doing batting the ONLY person who is hitting well right now, sixth while trash incorporated (my nickname for Cutch) keeps hitting 3rd? Marte with his .334 batting average hitting 6th. WTH

Hank

Batting Polanco 7th was even more stupid, and he hit two bullets. By the way Clint, Polanco can hit lefties…

Bruce Humbert

Locke bashers where are you – this is what a back of the rotation starter is for most teams and at $3M he is a bargain

Joshuatree

His main purpose was for his defense which he excels aka Barmes. My problem w S-Rod is too many starts bc of this BS rest program. I hope they trade him anyway so they can promote better bats in Hanson or Frazier.

Joe Nastasi

Hurdles seat should be getting warm if for nothing else his overuse of Srod. Changes to the bench boss works out sometimes. Just look across town (4 times)

jaybell

Well, yes. Boscan probably won’t develop into something very different than what he is right now. Glasnow should with more time in the minors. Hence, not a finished product.

BuccosFanStuckinMD

Bumgartner vs Locke and Cueto vs Boscan….a very sad state of affairs…for those who feel Glasnow is not a finished product yet, whatever that means, I assume you feel Boscan is?

Joshuatree

Unless you want to see TG’s 5 BB/9 be worse in the big show which I dont, just give up! TG will barely get through 5 innings in MLB pitching w that command. Boscan is an arm that has proven to be serviceable, eats innings and they don’t care about his contract.

TG is not where NH expected him to be and the FO WILL NOT overpay for a pitcher in June when a vast majority of the league didnt give up on the season. NH is lucky JT was ready bc it was supposed to be TG. Live w it for another month even if that means the season!

st1300b

Well actually yes Boscan is all he’ll be as far as development. Doesn’t mean Im thrilled he’s starting but who knows he may pull a Karstens.
I want Glasnow up too though so yea he’s not a finished product but I think he can win in the show and that’s all that matters in my book.

SSGJD9595

How in world is Glasnow not a better option than Locke or Niescao(sp) or Boscan. Call them up and see what he has to offer

Bruce Humbert

Glasnow is now set to arrive after super two date next season along with Bell

jaybell

If the biggest priority was to win one game, agreed Glasnow gives us a better chance than all 3. But that’s just not the FO’s priority.

piraterican21

You took the bait that is cast every single day.

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