Pirates Notebook: Matos good bet to make team

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BRADENTON, Fla. -- It would appear that Luis Matos will have a hard time not making the Pirates' 25-man roster out of spring training.

Asked yesterday how Matos might fit in with the team's needs on the bench, general manager Dave Littlefield said that one of those needs will be "a right-handed hitting outfielder who also can play center field" to back up Chris Duffy.

Only two players fit that mold: Matos and Rajai Davis. And it is highly unlikely to be Davis.

Davis, 26, batted .283 for Class AAA Indianapolis last season before being promoted Aug. 14. But, in spending the final six weeks with the Pirates, he never made a start and had only 14 at-bats. Moreover, he is slowed this spring by a sore shoulder, the result of a headfirst slide in winter ball.

Matos, 28, has six years of Major League Baseball experience, including last season with the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals. He fared poorly, batting a combined .206 with two home runs in 69 games before being released in mid-August, but he and Pirates management partly attribute that to right shoulder inflammation that cost him a month early in the season.

"I came here because I thought I'd get a chance to impress the team, and that's what I hope I can do," Matos said. "The main thing for me is to stay healthy. When I'm healthy, the numbers are there."

In 2005 with Baltimore, Matos batted .280 with 20 doubles.

Matos is one of three outfielders with major-league experience who were signed to minor-league contracts this offseason. Chris Aguila is a right-handed hitter, but his experience in center field is limited.

Matos?

"I'm a center fielder. Always have been."

Kolb comes right back

Just two days after seeing the medical staff about mild arm pain, reliever Dan Kolb was back on the mound. He made his 40-pitch bullpen session yesterday as scheduled and with no apparent discomfort.

Some sharp glovework

Baseball America's widely read -- and respected -- rankings of each team's top 10 prospects, issued last month, included this line about Pirates reliever Josh Sharpless: "He's not athletic and doesn't field well."

Sharpless had something to say about that, on the field and off.

First, he won the team's annual rag-ball competition, a drill in which a pitcher stands on the mound and tries to cleanly field rubber-coated baseballs smashed off the bat of roving instructor Jeff Banister. He who snags the most in a row wins.

With his 60-plus teammates watching from the side, Sharpless won with six in a row. That beat out Carlos Maldonado's five -- he is a catcher who just happens to be good at the drill -- and Kolb's four.

Sharpless' teammates mobbed him, and fellow reliever Damaso Marte hoisted him into the air.

"I think I'm pretty good defensively," Sharpless said later.

Buried treasure

Jose Castillo continued to work at third base -- and with minor-leaguers -- during the infield portion of the two-hour workout yesterday. The major-league infield, left to right, was Jose Bautista, Jack Wilson, Freddy Sanchez and Adam LaRoche.

Fifteen pitchers had bullpen sessions, and six of those -- Zach Duke, Paul Maholm, Tom Gorzelanny, Yoslan Herrera, Jesse Chavez and Jim Brower -- worked additionally to stand-in hitters.

As expected, Jason Bay stayed out of the popup drill for outfielders. He will proceed slowly through the early part of spring training because of his offseason knee surgery.

Minor-league second baseman Javier Guzman sat out the workout because of an injured left knee. He is not expected to be out long.

The workout today begins at 9:50 a.m.



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