Utilityman Wimberly hoping his speed lands him on roster

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BRADENTON, Fla. -- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle has a way with explanations, often putting things into an efficient, little box when describing a situation.

True to form, when Hurdle was asked of utilityman Corey Wimberly, trying to make the club as a non-roster invitee, Hurdle encapsulated Wimberly's situation perfectly.

"To his credit, delay hasn't meant denial," Hurdle said.

Sure hasn't.

Seems Wimberly, 27, has been told all through his baseball career what he doesn't possess, but he hasn't permitted such factors to be a deterrent.

"Can't let that stuff get to you," said Wimberly, who has played second base, third base, shortstop, left field and center field in his career. "Just got to stay focused."

Wimberly isn't big -- the media guide's listing at 5 feet 8, 170 pounds is generous.

He doesn't have that deep baseball pedigree, either -- even though he's from Jacksonville, Fla., none of the big-name schools came calling. He played college baseball at Alcorn State, an historically black university in Mississippi, not a place ripe with professional prospects.

When Wimberly was selected in the sixth round of the 2005 draft by the Colorado Rockies, the eyebrow-arching continued.

"Everybody wondered about the level of competition, how good I really was," Wimberly said. "I did hear that stuff, yes. As I've become older, I've just learned that I need to control what I can control."

Wimberly's aim is to make it impossible for the Pirates to not put him on the 25-man roster when the team breaks camp.

Picked up from Oakland in an offseason trade for minor league pitcher Ryan Kelly, Wimberly is a career minor leaguer. He has spent time in the Colorado and Oakland organizations and is a lifetime .302 hitter in 560 games in the minors.

But there has been a bit of a buzz around him in Bradenton, due in large part to his legs.

Last season while playing for Sacramento, Wimberly led the Class AAA Pacific Coast League in stolen bases with 56. With Hurdle making the proclamation a few times in camp that this club plans to be more aggressive on the basepaths, Wimberly could be a player who nails down one of those final roster spots when everything is decided.

"He is a guy who you can call in during the eighth or ninth inning and steal a base when everyone is anticipating a base being stolen," Hurdle said. "That is not a skill you can teach and it is good to have those guys on your club."

Good to have those kinds of guys in the National League, too.

Wimberly understands the managerial maneuvering that comes with playing in this league as opposed to the American League, and he also knows his is a skill-set (he's a switch-hitter, too) that can be invaluable late in a game.

"There is a little bit more of an opportunity for a guy with my makeup in the National League," Wimberly said. "I've learned how to embrace roles. In the National League, you are going to get your time to shine, you are going to get opportunities in a game, whether they want you to go in and run, or hit, or do something. You can always contribute."

So what does Wimberly do to make sure he gets noticed?

Nothing much more than what he has been doing already -- hustling, working as diligently as possible and hoping his versatility and ethic has a place on that roster.

"You can just do whatever you've done to get this far, and just continue to do it," Wimberly said. "You can't focus on what you haven't done or where you haven't been, you need to keep focusing on getting to your dream, reaching where you want to be.

"I know where I want to be, and it is my job to just keep working to get there."

Colin Dunlap: cdunlap@post-gazette.com . First Published February 22, 2011 5:00 AM


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