McGuiness wants shot to write his MLB book of records with Pirates
February 21, 2014 11:09 PM
Peter Diana / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Pirates first baseman Chris McGuiness tosses to first in a workout in Bradenton, Fla.
By Bill Brink / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
BRADENTON, Fla. -- For fans, the Rule 5 draft represents little more than the conclusion of the Winter Meetings. The most interest generated by recent Rule 5 drafts came in December, when the Texas Rangers drafted second baseman Russell Wilson out of the Colorado Rockies organization. Wilson went on to win the Super Bowl as the quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks.
For the player, though, the draft means a lot, as recent Pirates acquisition Chris McGuiness can attest. McGuiness, who joined the Pirates in a trade this winter, has seen his share of roster moves, including a December 2012 selection in the Rule 5 draft by the Cleveland Indians.
"A lot of pressure," McGuiness said of the experience. "You got to go and make a 25-man club. I went over there in a good situation, thinking I had a chance, and then they signed three or four proven guys and kind of put me in a tough spot. I didn't have that good of a spring."
The left-handed hitting McGuiness joins Jaff Decker, Edinson Volquez and Chris Stewart as newcomers to the Pirates' 40-man roster this offseason. He is the only new addition to the pool of infielders, save for shortstop Alen Hanson, a minor leaguer the Pirates protected from the Rule 5draft this winter.
McGuiness has spent all but 14 of his 428 games in the minors as a first baseman and faces the difficult prospect of making a roster that already figures to include Gaby Sanchez and Andrew Lambo, but he is excited about the opportunity.
"When I got traded, I talked with [general manager] Neal [Huntington], and I talked with [manager] Clint [Hurdle] since spring training started," McGuiness said. "Regardless of what anybody tells you, you still got to go out and perform. Whether they tell you, you got a job or you don't, if you don't perform in spring training, you're not going to be where you want to be."
McGuiness, who came to the Pirates from the Texas Rangers in exchange for right-handed reliever Miles Mikolas, began his pro career in the Boston Red Sox organization. The Red Sox sent him to Texas in exchange for Jarrod Saltalamacchia. McGuiness joined the Indians briefly after the Rule 5 draft but returned to the Rangers before the season started.
The Rangers designated him for assignment this past offseason after they signed free-agent outfielder Shin-Soo Choo.
"When I got designated, I was hoping for a trade somewhere," McGuiness said. "That would be the best-case scenario."
McGuiness has a career .372 on-base percentage, including a .369 mark last season in 436 plate appearances at Class AAA Round Rock. He hit a career-high 23 home runs in 2012 at Class AA Frisco. McGuiness went 6 for 34 with the Rangers in 2013, his first major league experience.
"Don't let the pitcher dictate what you're trying to do," McGuiness said of his approach. "I just try to stay in the middle of the field and try to hit the ball hard. If it goes out of the ballpark, it goes out. You can't really control that, but you can control your approach, pitches you swing at, stuff like that."
McGuiness played his college ball at The Citadel, a military academy in his hometown of Charleston, S.C. The mental toughness instilled in the students there, McGuiness said, helped him once he reached pro baseball.
"They think we get special treatment just because we're athletes there," he said. "We don't do some of the military stuff, but they don't see all the things we do lifting-wise two hours a day, practicing for five hours a day. It's definitely demanding. It was good, taught me how to juggle a lot of things."
Some motivational talk
Steve Shenbaum, an actor and the founder of communications training firm "game on Nation", spoke to the Pirates Friday morning. Shenbaum, who appeared in "American Pie 2" and "Space Jam," also has worked with Penguins center Sidney Crosby among the dozens of athletes he has counseled.
"Steve is a very talented man, and the presentations have substance and have meaning," Hurdle said.
"There's fun tied to it. It's a team-bonding, team-building exercise. Always well-received, very well-received."
Outfielder Travis Snider returned to throwing in the workout Friday after cutting a finger on his left hand recently.
Bill Brink: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @BrinkPG.
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