Pirates' Presley focusing on being fifth outfielder

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BRADENTON, Fla. -- Really, it doesn't take much for outfielder Alex Presley to arrive at the obvious.

He could use logic or glimpse at the depth chart or a combination of both.

"The starting positions are taken," he said after taking extra batting practice following the requisite work Wednesday at Pirate City.

Presley, 25, the organization's minor league player of the year last season, can play all three outfield positions, but he faces a roadblock in left field (Jose Tabata), one in center (Andrew McCutchen) and a platoon in right (Matt Diaz and Garrett Jones).

So how does Presley -- who appeared in 19 games late last season for the Pirates -- approach spring training knowing his lot for the upcoming season is in a bench role in the majors or an everyday spot in the lineup in Class AAA Indianapolis as the alternative?

Total ignorance.

"I don't listen to any of that stuff," said Presley, who hit .320 in the minors last season with 85 RBIs and 86 runs. "I don't listen to outside stuff. I know what I hear among us in here and that is what I go off of. My goal is to make the team.

"If I set [a goal] just to come in and have a good camp, I don't feel like I'm working toward anything."

Presley wants to beat out Corey Wimberly and John Bowker as that fifth outfielder, and it appears that Presley has done some things to spark the interest of manager Clint Hurdle.

"I like what I've seen from Alex," Hurdle said. "I like the conversations I've had with the people within our organization. I like the conversations I've had with the people who have had him previous to even last year.

"The ability to play all three outfield positions and the ability to utilize some speed on the bases. He is not a guy, who when you look at him, you think, 'We can bring everybody in.' There is some barrel to that bat. It will play a little bit. He can drive a baseball."

The combined 29 doubles and 13 home runs playing for Altoona, Indianapolis and the Pirates last season is just a portion of it, though. If Presley is to survive camp and come north with the Pirates, he is well aware of what his role would entail -- coming off the bench, pinch-running, pinch-hitting, a late-game substitute, playing sparingly.

"I've really concentrated on learning how to steal bases better in the offseason," Presley said. "I feel like I have become a better professional over the past year or so. I've been more patient, I've been more well-rounded as a hitter and I've set a goal that I want to make this club. Right now, that is all I am focusing on. That is all I should be focusing on."

Buried treasure

• The Pirates' first game against Major League competition comes Saturday against Tampa Bay and Hurdle has released the pitching sequence for that matchup. The design is for Charlie Morton to start and throw two innings with Brad Lincoln working the next two. Then, Chris Resop will throw an inning with Daniel Moskos and Daniel McCutchen to follow with an inning apiece. From there, Hurdle said there will be some "flexibility" over the late-game situation with Justin Thomas and Cesar Valdez.

• Right-handed pitcher Jose Ascanio experienced elbow tightness after his first bullpen session and is day to day. Ascanio, acquired as part of the trade with the Cubs for Tom Gorzelanny and John Grabow in July 2009, missed almost all of last season recovering from labrum surgery and then a hand injury. He made just two rehabilitation appearances last season.

Colin Dunlap: cdunlap@post-gazette.com


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