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Thursday, December 01, 2022

The future is approaching for ever-evolving Pirates

PITTSBURGH ( Associated Press) – Pirates manager Derek Shelton knew there would be growing pains when he took over a team in transition in the fall of 2019. He had no idea how right he would be, for reasons that had nothing to do with real baseball. .

Trying to lead a young team in the midst of a massive overhaul from top to bottom is one thing. Trying to do this in the midst of a pandemic – with all the constraints and logistical obstacles that went along with it – is another.

A sense of normalcy returned when the Pirates entered 2022. As busy as his stay in Pittsburgh was, Shelton believes his team and the franchise are better for it.

“I think we’ve talked a lot over the last two years about diving and diving and dodging – whatever the five D’s of dodgeball are – but the one thing we’re looking at is how we can get better, which forces us to getting better, ”Shelton said.

There’s still nowhere to go except on. While general manager Ben Cherington has struggled to rebuild the farm system, most of the talent he’s gained over the past 30 months – including first-round pick in catcher Henry Davis and winger Nick Gonzales – is still a long way from getting out. to walk the dugout at PNC Park in a Pirates uniform.

The main league list remains a mix of a young (like) core that the team can build, such as third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes and All-Star center fielder Bryan Reynolds, and veterans such as pitcher Carlos Quintana and catcher Roberto Pérez, who offers one-year offers in hopes of reviving their careers.

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While Pittsburgh brought in a new hitting coach hoping to bring to life a series that ended last in runs scored, home runs and poor percentage and first baseman Yoshi Tsutsugo re-recorded after a promising game near the end of last season , which consistently caused offense. will probably remain a problem. A pitching staff that was one of only three teams to place an ERA north of 5.00 was not really upgraded.

That could lead to another summer where losses are more than wins, though Shelton knows the franchise’s focus for now remains on the club’s long-term future. His job is to make sure he gets the most out of the present. For that purpose, he respects his team’s resilience in the midst of a turbulent transition.

“I think the one thing that can always be said about our group is that they play hard every day,” Shelton said.

To avoid a fourth consecutive last place in the NL Central, they will have to. The Pirates open the season April 7 at St.

NEW APPEARANCE

Jacob Stallings won his first Golden Glove while driving a pitching staff that bounced off a revolving door. His reward? A trade to Miami for some prospects.

Enter Pérez. The 33-year-old is, like Stallings, a defensive wizard. Unlike Stallings, Pérez has struggled to stay on the field during his last two seasons with the Indians. He’s eager to hit reset in Pittsburgh.

“I have very fond memories of my time with Cleveland and had a wonderful opportunity there,” he said. “I am grateful for that, but I am also excited to be here. I like the atmosphere so far. It’s chilly. ”

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SMOKES TO WATCH

The first real splashy arrival of Cherington’s tenure could come in the form of tower 6-foot-7 shortstop Oneil Cruz. The 23-year-old hit his first major league homer at the end of 2021 during a short game. He showed flashes of strength during spring practice, but will start the season at Triple-A Indianapolis after appearing in just 70 games at all levels last year.

BEDROCK BEDNAR

One of the team’s surprising developments last season was the evolution of the enlightener David Bednar. The Pittsburgh area native has appeared in 61 games, placed a 2.23 ERA while scoring 3-1 and earning three saves, pushing himself into the conversation to be closer in 2022.

“Honestly, I did not think too much about it,” Bednar said. “When the phone rings, I will be ready and just try to punch a few tickets. That’s all. ”

KE’BRYAN KEYS

Hayes was limited to just 96 games last season due to a left wrist injury that made it painful to swing a bat. He hopes for a bounce back at the board to complement the kind of defense that became his business card during his rise by the minors.

“It was a bit of a rollercoaster for me. I had to grind through it, ”Hayes said. “Once I can be in that series every day, I know things can take care of themselves.”

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