BRADENTON, Florida (93-7 THE FAN) – Gregory Polanco and Adam Frazier arrived just in time for Day 4 of workouts at Pirate City, and both talked about expectations going into the first season of baseball in Pittsburgh in a decade without Andrew McCutchen.
Jameson Taillon also spoke about being used as an example in David Freese's discussion on Friday, and Clint Hurdle gave some peeks at how he views the top of the order now that Frazier is in camp.
-Pulling aside Taillon around 8 a.m. Saturday morning, our chat included discussion of how his first two bullpen sessions have gone ("[I] feel strong, [my] body's recovering well. That's a sign that I'm ready for hitters to step in and move on to the next step."), his thoughts on what it would mean to start on Opening Day ("It's not something I dreamt of as a kid. You dream of making the Major Leagues and playing playoff baseball and winning the World Series, but I'd be ready and honored if that's the way it goes."), setting a tone in the rotation and clubhouse given David Freese's comments ("There needs to be a voice that comes from somewhere, but the pitching staff needs to let our work do the talking."), and what he thought of Freese using him as an example regarding young up-and-coming players in an organization like the Pirates'.
"You hope when you give everything to an organization, and perform, you would hope that you get rewarded for it. Every case is different, you can't really judge someone for 'folding' and taking a team-friendly deal, but at the same time it's nice to see teams that take care of guys as they go forward and get rewarded. I see where [Freese] is coming from. The Cardinals historically - look at Yadi [Molina], look at [Matt] Carpenter - they've locked up young guys, they've taken care of them as they get closer. I don't know, I've got a lot of years to play out, so we'll see how it goes."
Taillon won't hit arbitration until 2020 and would become a free agent in 2023.
-After a failed 25-game experiment in left field last season, Polanco asserted his desire to stay in the corner he's played since being moved out of center field at the AAA level.
"Yeah, let me in right. I want to be in right field, and I want to stay there my whole career. I feel more comfortable in right field."
Polanco also discussed his well-publicized offseason workouts in order to avoid the injury issues that plagued him in 2017.
"I needed to get my core and lower body stronger and in shape, and that was my plan, and we did it."
The difference between this and other offseasons, said Polanco, was starting earlier.
"This time I started working out in late October. I lost some weight, too. Maybe 7, 8 pounds. [I] lost body fat percentage, to stay in shape, to stay lean."
Asked if the loss of McCutchen will put any more pressure on him and Starling Marte, Polanco echoed his fellow Dominican's sentiments from earlier in the week.
"No, I don't feel any pressure, I'm just going to go out there and be me. I'm focusing on giving 100% every day. We know we have talent, we just have to put it together and be consistent."
Once workouts began, Polanco was in the outfield with Marte, Jordan Luplow, Austin Meadows, Jason Martin, Brian Reynolds, & Todd Cunningham. His batting practice group consisted of him, Marte, Freese, Colin Moran, & Jordy Mercer.
-Frazier worked with the infielders on his first day, taking grounders and turning double plays at second base on Field 2 alongside Max Moroff. Jordy Mercer and Kevin Newman were at short stop while Jose Osuna and Chris Bostick worked at third base and Eric Wood dug out throws in the dirt at first base. Wood has always been primarily a third baseman with some corner outfield ability, but began mixing in first base two autumns ago in the Arizona Fall League.
Frazier's BP group included Osuna, Luplow, Moroff, and Daniel Nava.
While Clint Hurdle didn't want to glean too much from the first day of work for new arrivals like Polanco and Frazier, he did openly discuss what Frazier brings to the table at the top of the order.
"[He's] aggressive within the zone, a walk's a real thing at some point in time in the count, he has the ability to steal a base, he has the ability to work at-bats. We saw some games late, first at-bat of the game, 11, 12 ,13 pitches, fouling balls off. The barrel can show up as well when that lineup turns around. I just like that dynamic of him going up there, he's up there with intent. Some guys look to get on base, he's looking to get on base but he's also got bad intentions with the bat in his hand."
Frazier echoed the skipper's interest in being at the top of the lineup.
"You get to set the table for those guys in the middle of the order, and that's what produces runs. It's my identity. I'm not the big guy that hits all the home runs. My role on the team is you have to get on base any way you can, and put pressure on the defense."
Asked about putting pressure on the opposition with his legs once he's on base, Frazier expressed a desire to run more in 2018.
"If we're going to have success, we have to be more aggressive on the bases. Myself included, I'd like to steal more bases this year, be a distraction for the pitcher when I am on base. That puts pressure on the defense as well. For example, [look at] the Reds. Billy Hamilton puts pressure on our defense and our pitcher. When [the Reds] get on base, it's tough. We'd like to be that kind of team this year, and I think that'd allow us to have more success."
Frazier also agreed with Freese's comments in regard to a lack of winning culture in the clubhouse.
"I wouldn't say we were a unit last year, all [as] one. Our results showed from that. So, I'm looking forward to getting after it this year [with a] new group of guys, some new faces in here, see how we can bring these guys together and form as that one unit and run out there with some energy, and go in to battle as brothers."
-Freese worked at first base alongside Nava on Field 1 with Moran at third, Cole Tucker at short stop, and Kevin Kramer and Erich Weiss at second.
-As he was walking on to the field, and before he was aware Frazier had arrived, Hurdle was heard joking with Freese "Is Frazier coming in on elephants, or does he have a Visa problem, or what?"
-An interesting conversation with an experienced member of the organization reinforced a notion that's been bubbling up over the last few days: The players acquired from the Astros seem to be extremely grounded and have already taken on interesting roles. Joe Musgrove was making himself available to Martin yesterday upon his arrival to help introduce him to his new teammates. Martin was, in turn, working in the same cage as Bryan Reynolds this morning. Michael Feliz has attached himself to the hip of Ivan Nova but has also interacted closely with youngster Edgar Santana. And Moran seems to be as down to earth as any of them, quietly chatting with Josh Bell, whose locker is directly next to his, and inviting Freese into the cage he was working in this morning. It's hard to easily describe, but they all seem to have certain character traits that indicate they could be core leaders in the future.
-Four groups of four threw bullpen sessions today: Nick Kingham-Clay Holmes-Jack Leathersich-Dario Agrazal went first, with John Stilson-Damien Magnifico-Richard Rodriguez-Luis Escobar second, followed by Chad Kuhl-Trevor Williams-Edgar Santana-Dovydas Neverauskas.
Francisco Cervelli, who caught Kuhl, exalted his work as "gorgeous," while Ray Searage reminded the pitchers from the back of the 'pen to "keep it under 25 [pitches]!"
Cervelli caught Yeudy Garcia in the final group which also had Tyler Eppler, Brett McKinney, and Alex McRae. The organization's 2015 Minor League Pitcher of the Year, Garcia turned his season around last year in Altoona. After starting the season 2-5 with a 6.50 ERA in his first 11 starts, he was yanked form the rotation and placed on the disabled list. Two weeks later, after a pair of rehab appearances in the Gulf Coast League, he took on a role in the back end of the Curve's bullpen, posting a 2.96 ERA over 15 appearances. There could be plenty of openings in Indianapolis's bullpen this spring, so a strong showing would do Garcia well.
-Pitchers will throw Live BP tomorrow. Michael Feliz, Tyler Glasnow, George Kontos, Ivan Nova, Felipe Rivero, Bo Schultz, and Josh Smoker at 11:10 and Steven Brault, Kyle Crick, Tyler Jones, Jordan Milbrath, Joe Musgrove, Casey Sadler, A.J. Schugel, and Jameson Taillon at 11:40.
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