Pirates' Brandon Moss looking to rebound

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BRADENTON, Fla. -- To his vocal critics in the PNC Park seats and on the postgame airwaves, Brandon Moss wants you to know that you were right last year: He was, to use his word, embarrassing.

He also wants you to know that this season, "I have a lot to prove, a lot of people to shut up.

"I'd rather be out of this game and not ever be able to play again than to play like I played last year. It's just not worth it," Moss said Tuesday after the first official full-squad workout.

"Because that was embarrassing. I had to hear 100,000 people on radio every night talk about me and how badly I played, and I knew it. If I hadn't played so bad, then I would be a little offended. But they were being honest.

"I can't play weak like that. That's not who I am, that's not how I play. I can't baby my knee and hope everything is going to be OK. [In 2010], I'm going to be myself."

One year ago, Moss was taking swings in batting cages while seated on a stool, the last vestiges of a left-knee surgery October 2008 to remove loose cartilages bothering him for two years.

An avid weightlifter, he wasn't permitted to pump iron with his legs until September. Once he was cleared, his inaugural squat lifts kept his hamstrings aching for 10 days.

"I went from, honestly ... 250 pounds [to] now I can squat 450, 460," Moss said. "I had atrophied that much. It's just a matter of getting my strength back and trusting that.

"I'm not a big guy [6 feet and a 10-pounds-heftier 210], but I've always been extremely strong with weights, in the weight room. That's where I get my strength and where I get my power from. I had no power last year. I was a joke.

"I was. I was missing pitches. I was trying to overcompensate, getting big and swinging too early because I was trying to do too much. And it showed in my numbers."

He batted .236. He had seven home runs and 41 RBIs in 95 starts and 38 more pinch-batting or defensive appearances. His knee didn't restrict him defensively at least: He had eight assists and a .994 fielding percentage, numbers that ranked him 12th and fourth among major league right fielders, respectively.

"I threw a lot of people out and played pretty good defense," said Moss, 26. "It wasn't that I lost speed, I lost strength. My swing is all lower half [of the body], and I didn't have it last year. It turned into all upper half.

"I want to show these people why they traded for me," added the eight-year pro, who has no minor league options left and free-agent signee Ryan Church plus Garrett Jones in the right-field mix as well. "I want to let them know the guy they saw the past year and a half, the first year was hurt and the second year the strength wasn't there. There is the player they want in there. I am that player.

"Honestly, I couldn't be any worse than I was last year, so what's the pressure? I got that job taken from me last year, the starting right fielder. If it can get taken from me, you can take it back. ... My goal is to be here, and it's not to be a guy who plays every fifth day or every third day. It's to be a guy you're running out there every night and whom you depend on.

"I know they brought in a lot of guys. I want to be on this team. And I want to be a main part of this team. And I want to be here when we turn this around, you know?"

Future is now

After the annual start-of-spring-training talk by owner Bob Nutting and president Frank Coonelly, among others, Coonelly told the players on hand in Pirate City that this will be the group that "turns this franchise around."

"We are in no way, shape or form willing to sacrifice 2010," he added. "In fact, that was one of the points that I made to the players [Tuesday]:

'Don't let people tell you that the Pirates have a great future, but it's not today.' Today is our future. 2010 is the beginning of the next dynasty of the Pirates, for me."

Dotel, Hanrahan updates

Reliever Joel Hanrahan's MRI showed that the inflammation had subsided in his right, throwing arm, but he remains shut down until a Thursday visit to Dr. James Andrews' office in Pensacola, Fla. He reported that it feels fine already, less than a week after ceasing to throw.

Presumptive closer Octavio Dotel slightly injured his left side while throwing Sunday, skipped his scheduled pitching Tuesday and was excused from workouts for another day, at least.

"It's nothing to worry about, really," Dotel said. Manager John Russell added: "It's just some discomfort."

Walker's role changes

It's official now. Pine-Richland's Neil Walker is being transformed into a utility player, initially adding second base and then outfield to his portfolio of third base and catcher, where his career started.

"He's going to bounce around a little bit," Russell said.

"There's still the process of making sure he knows the position before we just throw him in a game. We'll continue to look at that."

Chuck Finder: cfinder@post-gazette.com . First Published February 24, 2010 5:00 AM


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