PITTSBURGH — After a moribund start to the 2017 season, John Jaso is on something of a hot streak.
The Pirates first baseman and outfielder got his first start in six days on Wednesday against the Colorado Rockies — and he has earned it.
Jaso hit a two-run pinch hit home run on Tuesday night and is hitting .400 as a pinch-hitter this season. Just like a year ago, it seemed that as soon as Jaso’s role lessened from everyday starter to part-time player, his hitting seemed to improve.
“Pinch hitting is hard,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “It’s one of the hardest things you have to do. John’s a special guy.”
I asked Jaso if there’s something about his game that lends itself to being a part-time player more than some other guys. For once, the usually soft-spoken Jaso had a lot to say.
“I don’t know,” he started, laughing. “I just get ready during the game, stretch out and relax. I don’t want to get too amped up or anything like that. I’ve done it a lot in my career. I know that nerves can get in there and adrenaline, so just keep that calm and it becomes another at-bat like you started the game.
“Naturally, in a pinch-hitting situation, this primal thing inside your brain starts taking over and adrenaline starts kicking in and it’s a full panic. I know from catching, when a guy comes in late in the game, usually I’m calling off-speed because he’s coming unglued coming out of shoes his adrenaline is pumping so hard.
“As you get older and you start dealing with that early on in your career with pinch-hitting, you try and harness that initially and then you try to relax. You try to not let that adrenaline rule your decision-making while you’re up there, especially when you have less than a second to make a decision.
“My personality works well for myself because I’m a pretty relaxed dude. I just treat it like it’s a second AB of the game with nobody on. I treat it as such and just deal with it like that. I know a lot of people that have failed in that situation and a lot of people have succeeded. Really good players have done both. I just go up there and treat it like another at-bat and let my talent and work dictate for you instead of adrenaline and some type of rush that’s happening in side of your head.”
Even though catcher Francisco Cervelli was removed the disabled list, Jacob Stallings remains in town as the third catcher. Hurdle said he’s looking at ways to keep Diaz involved in the game, so it’s possible that he may be utilized more as a pinch hitter in the meantime. … The Pirates have a chance to earn their first series sweep at PNC Park since April 7 – 9 against Atlanta.