BRADENTON, Fla. — The Pirates went through the first day of full-squad workouts on Monday, and there weren’t many surprises as the position players joined the pitchers and catcher for drills, workouts, live batting practice, and defense.
The Pirates placed most of their returning major-league position players in the same group, and it was a pretty clear preview of a potential Opening Day lineup with catcher Francisco Cervelli, first baseman Josh Bell, second baseman Josh Harrison, shortstop Jordy Mercer, third baseman Colin Moran, and outfielders Adam Frazier, Gregory Polanco and Starling Marte. They were joined by reserves Elias Diaz, David Freese, Jordan Luplow, Daniel Nava, Kevin Newman, Jacob Stallings, and Cole Tucker.
Nava played first base, a position he doesn’t have that much experience with at the Major League level. He has 267.1 career innings played at that position in the majors, and just 14.2 with the Phillies in 2017.
The Pirates have loved their bench players to have positional versatility. That’s one of the reasons that Jose Osuna (who worked out with the second group on Monday) has been playing third base and it’s why Nava is working out a first.
“Being able to move around will help him,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “We’ve got a first baseman in play in Josh. Spring Training is going to help (Nava) get at-bats. Playing both outfield corners will help him get at-bats. As you look to put your bench together, he’s a guy who has shown the ability to do it at the Major League level.”
The Pirates went through 2017 with a bench of mostly young players like Frazier and Osuna and they didn’t always perform well in pinch-hitting or part-time roles. They hope that the more-experienced Nava can step right into a bench role and keep a younger player on the field full-time in Indianapolis.
“It’s very challenging to break in young players that have played every day throughout their minor league career, and then you get them on the bench in the big leagues and they try to figure that out,” Hurdle said. “It was very challenging for Osuna last year. Sometimes that’s the way you’ve got to go. This acquire was for a veteran man who has done it. Shown the ability to give you good at-bats late in the game, that help you win a game. And as I’ve done with any player who plays off the bench, if you’re going to ask him to pinch-hit, you need to give him starts to keep him sharp and keep the swing in place. All of that goes into his package.”
Nava said that he wanted to get over to first base as often as possible early in the spring to get re-acquainted with the position.
“I haven’t done a lot of it, that’s why I’m trying to work over there as much as I can,” Nava said. “Because when I do get over there, it’s not usually consistent, so I just need as many reps as I can get. Spring is a good time to do that.”
Nava is trying to lock down a bench spot, and the additional versatility won’t hurt. It seems likely that there’s two spots to go between Luplow, Max Moroff, Nava, and Osuna.
On the second field, Moroff and Osuna were joined by Chris Bostick, Todd Cunningham, Jason Martin, Austin Meadows, Pablo Reyes, Bryan Reynolds, Sean Rodriguez, Erich Weiss, and Eric Wood.
Kramer and Rodriguez played shortstop, Bostick and Moroff were at second, Osuna and Reyes at third, and Weiss and Wood at first.
WHERE DOES MEADOWS FIT?
Meadows was in the same group as Martin, who was acquired in the Gerrit Cole trade, and Reynolds, acquired for McCutchen. It’s a group with some positional versatility. Reynolds came up as a center fielder with the Giants before branching out and playing some corner outfield last season. Martin played both center and left in the Astros’ system.
That means that the Pirates will be able to move Meadows around and get him prepared for a major-league opportunity, wherever a need arises.
“Austin has played multiple spots in the outfield,” Hurdle said. “Some days it’s going to be what we need for the drill, and then when we go, game-ready stuff. … He’s going to need to arrive first before I’m going to get involved in that decision-making process. Just let the man play and get him on the field, get a nice big volume of at-bats and do some things athletically that are going to get his confidence going.”
Chad Kuhl impressed in his live BP session against the likes of Bell, Moran and Polanco. He almost broke Moran’s bat with an in-running two-seamer. … Minor leaguers Dario Agrazal and Tyler Eppler also pitched to that group. … Yeudy Garcia looked good against some of the veteran non-roster invitees. … Lefty reliever Jack Leathersich got positive remarks for some nice spin on his breaking ball, but Martin, a lefty hitter, was able to get a couple knocks against him.