BRADENTON, Fla. – Jose Osuna has been getting a lot of time at third base this spring with the Pirates. That isn’t a totally new position for him. He spent most of his time in winter ball at the position, at the request of the team, and got some work there last season.
The Pirates are looking to give Osuna more options. Prior to learning third base, he has primarily been a first baseman and a corner outfielder. However, the Pirates have Josh Bell as their starting first baseman, and Osuna’s range isn’t good enough to be a regular outfielder at PNC Park. That leaves him looking for another position and more playing time. Enter the third base transition.
Osuna said he’s feeling more comfortable at the position now versus last year, after getting some time this offseason. He had to get used to things like faster reaction times and working with a smaller glove, but is starting to get the feel for things.
“It feels really good,” Osuna said. “Better than how it started last year during the season. I know I have to keep working everyday, getting better everyday. I feel a big difference from how it started last year.”
It’s also helped that Osuna has slimmed down some, looking in good shape heading into the year. He said he did that in order to feel better on the field and move a bit faster. That would definitely help at third base.
The big problem is that even if Osuna can learn third base, it’s difficult to get him in the mix for playing time on this current Pirates team.
At third base, Colin Moran is expected to be the starter. David Freese is the top backup. And the Pirates have several options on the roster who can play third base in a pinch, so there’s no need to carry Osuna to be the emergency third baseman.
The first base situation is similar. Josh Bell is the starter. David Freese is the backup. You don’t usually need more than that, but there are still options for the third spot, with Sean Rodriguez being an in-game emergency option.
Osuna would need an injury to Moran or Bell in order to step into the role currently occupied by Freese as the backup at both spots, or he would need Freese to go down to get that time.
Clint Hurdle has said that Osuna isn’t a good option in the outfield for home games, since his range limits him in left field at PNC Park. And Corey Dickerson is the starter in left field. So Osuna’s usage in the outfield would be limited to a backup role, and only when on the road.
I asked Hurdle yesterday if it was a tough situation for Osuna, being on a team where there is depth at the three positions he can play.
“I don’t know how tough it is. On paper, it can look tougher,” Hurdle said. “I just told him to go play. His job is not to be a GM. His job is to show up, do the work like he did all winter. Look at the shape he’s in. He made some plays at third base yesterday, comes in at third base today, swings the bat. We’ll see how this whole thing plays out. There’s nothing set in stone. … I just love the way he’s showing up and working and doing the things that he’s in control of.”
Osuna entered the game yesterday at third base and hit a home run. He’s shown some power so far in his brief time in the majors, but hasn’t shown much beyond that, with a low average and a low OBP. He could eventually emerge as a bench option, taking over the role Freese currently has, although his defense at the corners wouldn’t be as good. Aside from that, he would need to improve his offense and hit his way into a better role or more playing time, since he’s otherwise blocked at every spot.