BRADENTON, Fla. – Today was the first workout for pitchers and catchers in Pirates’ minor league camp, along with a few of the early arrivals on the position player side. I spent a lot of today getting interviews for upcoming articles, but do have a few notes from the first day.

One of the big things when Spring Training kicks off is noticing some of the position changes. The two biggest ones I noticed were that Hunter Owen was listed as a catcher, and Oneil Cruz was listed as a shortstop. I didn’t get a chance to talk with Cruz after practice, but he has been a shortstop in the past, and the Pirates always try players at their most valuable positions, so it’s not a surprise to see them attempt this position with Cruz. I hope to have more on that tomorrow or later this week.

I did talk with Owen, who said he’s caught before in practices in college, but never in games, and not since joining pro ball. Owen was moved to third base last year, and will still play third and have outfield as an option. The move to catcher is more an experiment, and will give him a chance to find additional playing time. He’s already started with the transition by working with the catchers during bullpen sessions. He’s an interesting prospect who showed off some power, but is a bit older and didn’t have the best defense at third. It will be interesting to see how the catching experiment goes. I’ll have more on Owen this week as well.

Will Craig Looks in Great Shape

I caught a little bit of Will Craig’s batting practice today, and got a brief video during the final part. He looks like he’s in great shape, which is something I noticed when talking to him on Monday.

VIDEO: Will Craig looks like he's in great shape. #Pirates

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I talked with Craig about whether he’s been making any changes to his swing, and how he can add power to his game. I’ve got one more interview before that one is ready.

I also got my first look at Sherten Apostel today. It wasn’t the best part of batting practice (aka, not the swing away portion), but enough to show the size of the big 19-year-old.

VIDEO: 19 year old third base prospect Sherten Apostel is a big kid. #Pirates

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New Players

The Pirates will have two of their recent international signings in camp. Outfielder Fabricio Macias is already here, and was taking batting practice today. The interesting thing is that Macias was with Chris Sharpe, Michael Suchy, and Jerrick Suiter. That group is mostly guys who will be in Bradenton or Altoona this year, which means the Pirates might be thinking about getting aggressive with the placement of their recent signing.

Right-handed pitcher Juan Henriquez, who signed last July, will be arriving next week. He recently turned 21, and is a 6′ 3″ pitcher from the Dominican. Fernando Villegas, an outfielder signed recently out of Mexico, is currently waiting for his visa before coming to Spring Training.

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  1. Bradenton makes sense as a placement for Macias if that allows him to access whatever they have in place to help the many Latinos whose first experience in the U.S. is with the GCL Pirates.

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