Fantasy Football 2014:

Pirates remain on lookout for lefty-swinging 1B

The SportsXchange

Neal Huntington continues to look for a left-handed hitting first baseman. However, the Pittsburgh Pirates general manager maintains his stance that he will only add a player "if it makes sense."

The Pirates have been linked to such trade possibilities as the New York Mets' Ike Davis, the Toronto Blue Jays' Adam Lind and the Seattle Mariners' Justin Smoak. Switch-hitting Kendrys Morales remains on the free agent market, but the Pirates would prefer not to give up their first-round pick in this year's amateur draft -- 24th overall -- for signing him.

"I don't see the need to overpay for a first baseman, whether it be in a trade or in free agency," Huntington said. "The reason I feel that way is because of our internal options. I think we can fill the position with what we have."

In a perfect world, right-handed hitting Gaby Sanchez would be platoon player and start against left-handed pitchers. He has a career .895 OPS against lefties but a .700 figure against right-handers in six seasons.

The Pirates, though, are willing to consider playing Sanchez regularly at first base and he thinks he can do the job. He lost 20 pounds in the offseason in anticipation of his playing time possibly increasing.

"I really believe if I get the chance to play regularly against right-handed pitchers that I would have success against them," Sanchez said. "It's like anything else, the more you do something, the better you are going to get at it. I know I can hit righties. It's not like I've never got a hit off of one."

Two 25-year-old left-handed hitting rookies --- Andrew Lambo and Chris McGuiness --- will also get an opportunity to show they deserve at-bats at first base this spring.

Lambo was the Pirates' minor-league player of the year last season when he hit a combined .282 with 32 home runs and 99 RBIs in 120 games with Triple-A Indianapolis and Double-A Altoona. Lambo has been primarily an outfielder in his eight-year professional career but spent time playing first base in the Venezuelan Winter League in the offseason.

"I can't wait to wake up and get to the field," Lambo said. "I'm so excited about this spring. It's the opportunity that I always hoped to have."

McGuinness, the MVP of the Arizona Fall League in 2012, was unsuccessful in his bid to make the Cleveland Indians' opening day roster as a Rule 5 Draft pick last spring and then made his major-league debut with a 10-game cameo with the Texas Rangers in June. He hit just .246 with 11 homers in 107 games with Triple-A Round Rock.

"All you want is a chance to show what you can do," McGuiness said. "Hopefully, I'll do something with the opportunity and open some eyes. They don't really know me here and I want to make a good impression."


--RHP Jason Grilli is lagging behind the rest of the pitchers in his throwing program this spring and that is by design. The 37-year-old closer wants to conserve his energy for the regular season after pitching in 54 games last season and posting 33 saves with a 2.70 ERA. Grilli will likely make his first Grapefruit League appearance either Monday against the Boston Red Sox in Bradenton or Tuesday against the Detroit Tigers in Lakeland. "For a reliever, spring training can be too long," Grilli said. "How many times do I have to go out there to pitch one inning?"

--CF Andrew McCutchen is working on his baserunning this spring after winning the National League MVP award last season. He stole 27 bases in 37 attempts last season for a 73 percent success rate. McCutchen would like to increase both his stolen base percentage and volume of steals in 2014.

--1B Travis Ishikawa, in spring training as a non-roster player, was removed after one inning of the Black-Gold intraquad game on Tuesday because of tightness in his right calf. He is likely out through the weekend. A long shot to make the team, Ishikawa played in a combined seven games with the Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees last season, going 2-for-19 (.105).

--C Tony Sanchez is likely ticketed for Triple-A Indianapolis to begin the season as Russell Martin seems set as the starting catcher and Chris Stewart as the backup. However, the 25-year-old rookie is giving the Pirates something to think about in the early days of exhibition games. He hit three-run home runs both Tuesday in the Black-Gold intrasquad game and Wednesday in the Grapefruit League opener against the New York Yankees. Sanchez made his major-league debut with the Pirates last season and batted .233 with two homers in 22 games.

--RHP Stolmy Pimentel is being given a starting pitcher's workload this spring, but the rookie is expected be the Pirates' long reliever when the season begins. Pimentel must make the team this spring or be subjected to waivers if the Pirates try to send him to the minor leagues because his is out of options. The Pirates believe he would be claimed by another team. Pimentel, 24, made his major-league debut last September and had 1.93 ERA in five relief appearances.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "He looks like a freak of nature to me," McCutchen on 6-foot-4, 220-pound OF Gregory Polanco, who is considered the Pirates' top prospect and will likely begin the season at Indianapolis.


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