Jose Bautista Pirates

Anthony Castrovince rewrites Jose Bautista’s history

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It’s a nice tale that MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince spins about Jose Bautista, and a lot of it is even true.  However, Castrovince is way guilty of overstating his case in this piece and Bautista’s story is good enough that it doesn’t need the exaggeration.

Castrovince’s piece suggests in multiple spots that the Pirates never gave Jose Bautista a chance.  Maybe they didn’t give him the right coaching, but opportunity wasn’t the problem.

There was the year the Pirates optioned him out in spring camp — not to
Triple-A but Double-A — then called him up in September and gave him
just seven starts in a month.

That year was 2005.  Bautista had just spent all of the 2004 season wasting away on major league benches because of his status as a Rule 5 pick.   Double-A was absolutely where he belonged, considering that he hit .242 with four homers in 195 at-bats for high-A Lynchburg in 2003 and then got just 88 at-bats in the majors in 2004.

Bautista hit .280/.359/.490 with 24 homers in Double-A (and a little bit of Triple-A) that year.  Also, Castrovince makes it sound like he was glued to the bench during the final month of the season.  He only got seven starts in September because Triple-A Indianapolis went to the International League playoffs and, as a result, he wasn’t called up until Sept. 16.

There was the year the Bucs had him back up a retirement-ready Joe Randa, and
another year they had him platoon with an equally retirement-ready Doug
Mientkiewicz.

No, there wasn’t.   Bautista opened 2006 in Triple-A and was called up to replace an injured Randa on May 7 despite hitting an underwhelming .277/.370/.426 with two homers in 119 at-bats.   From that point on, he started 101 and played in 117 of the Pirates’ 129 games, hitting .235/.335/.420.   He was no one’s backup, though he did move all over the field.

In 2007, Bautista was an everyday player.  He hit a respectable .254/.339/.414 in 532 at-bats.  That he only played in 142 games was a result of a couple of injuries.

2008 was the year Bautista was platooned with Mientkiewicz.  That lasted about a week.  It probably was a foolish move by the Pirates, but Bautista got off to an awful start both offensively and defensively, committing a rash of errors in April.  Bautista still started 79 and played in 99 of the Pirates’ 108 games before Andy LaRoche was acquired at the end of July.  That was what took him out of the team’s plans.  He was sent down two weeks later and traded to the Blue Jays a week afterwards.

Playing time and preparation led to Bautista’s ascension. In 2009, it was then-manager Cito Gaston who finally gave him the former and hitting coach Dwayne Murphy who helped hammer home the finer points of the latter. Working with Murphy, Bautista initiated a timing mechanism that starts his leg kick sooner and helps him explode on the ball.

In 2009, Bautista had 404 plate appearances, fewer than he had in 2006, 2007 or 2008.

Look, one can take issue Pirates coaching and I’ll certainly agree with it.  Bautista himself and the Blue Jays both deserve plenty of credit for what’s become of the player.

But to write that the Pirates didn’t give Bautista a chance is simply a lie.  He had 1,520 plate appearances in 400 games with the team and batted .241/.329/.403.  He averaged a homer every 31 at-bats.  He could always hit left-handers, but he was a major liability against right-handers in both 2006 and 2008, only putting together a solid showing against them in 2007.

And once the Pirates acquired LaRoche and installed him at third base, they did right by Bautista, shipping him to the Blue Jays three weeks later.

The people associated with the club back then, at least the ones not responsible for teaching Bautista to hit, deserve better than this.

Reid Brignac is trying to become a switch hitter

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - FEBRUARY 26:  Reid Brignac #4 of the Atlanta Braves poses on photo day at Champion Stadium on February 26, 2016 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images
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Veteran utilityman Reid Brignac is in camp with the Astros on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old is close to being done as a major leaguer as he owns a career .219/.264/.309 triple-slash line across parts of nine seasons. In an effort to prolong his big league career, Brignac is now attempting to become a switch-hitter, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.

I’m going to try it out this year. It was something that I just thought long and hard about and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try and see how it goes.’ I used to switch-hit when I was younger off and on, nothing consistent. I could always handle the bat right-handed. I play golf right-handed, so I do a lot of things that way that feel natural.

I just want to get to the point where I’m trying to stay in games, not get pinch-hit for, not starting games because a lefty is starting. … That could help me stay in the games longer. I’m trying to add a new element. I play multiple positions and now if I can switch hit and be consistent at it, then that can only help me.

As Brignac mentions, he’s also verstile. He’s a shortstop by trade, but has also logged plenty of innings at second base and third base, and has occasionally played corner outfield.

There aren’t any examples — at least that I can think of — where players began switch-hitting late in their careers and actually succeeding in the major leagues. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But here’s hoping Brignac bucks the trend.

Video: Andrelton Simmons makes a heads-up play to catch Carlos Asuaje off first base

ANAHEIM, CA - AUGUST 03:  Andrelton Simmons #2 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim returns to the dugout after scoring in the second inning against the Oakland Athletics at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on August 3, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
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Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons fell off the map a bit last year due to a combination of the Angels’ mediocrity, Simmons’ lack of offense, and a month-plus of missed action due to a torn ligament in his left thumb.

Simmons is still as good and as smart as ever on defense. That was on full display Monday when the Angels hosted the Padres for an afternoon spring exhibition.

With a runner on first base and nobody out in the top of the second inning, Carlos Asuaje grounded a 2-0 J.C. Ramirez fastball to right field. The runner, Hunter Renfroe, advanced to third base. Meanwhile, Asuaje wandered a little too far off the first base bag. Simmons cut off the throw to first base, spun around and fired to Luis Valbuena at first base. Valbuena swiped the tag on Asuaje for the first out of the inning.