Battling at the plate finally pays off for John Jaso
April 19, 2017 6:15 PM
John Jaso pulls in a fly ball during a spring training game March 17.
By Stephen J. Nesbitt / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
ST. LOUIS — Before the Pirates’ series finale Wednesday at Busch Stadium, manager Clint Hurdle said grading John Jaso’s at-bats so far this season “depends what you’re looking for.”
“If you're looking for a hit, he doesn’t have one,” Hurdle admitted. “If you're looking for a guy that's battling, getting his swing off, he's doing all that and more. He's getting some walks. He's being aggressive. It’s just a matter of time before that first hit comes.”
The matter of time, in this case, was about three hours.
Hitless in his first 18 at-bats this season, Jaso poked a changeup from Cardinals right-hander Michael Wacha to left field for a fourth-inning single. He got the start Wednesday, his first career start in right field, in large part because of his history against Wacha — 4 for 11 with a home run.
Jaso, immediately doubled off on a Jordy Mercer line drive to second base, went 2 for 4. In right, he committed no noticeable mistakes, and he made a diving catch on a sinking liner.
“I think he looked as good in the box as he did in the outfield. He looked like Ron Swoboda on the one catch,” Hurdle said afterward, referencing the former New York Mets right fielder who made a game-saving diving catch in the ninth inning of Game 4 of the 1969 World Series.
Jaso had played 5⅓ innings in right field in the majors prior to Wednesday, though he worked there at length in spring training. He platooned at first base last season, but since the promotion of Josh Bell he has mostly been relegated to the bench, making the odd start at first or in right.
“He’s got some experience out there,” Hurdle said. “He’s been tracking balls. He’s been working. With the situation we're in right now [with Starling Marte suspended for 80 games], we talked about [Jaso] playing out there. He’s one of the options.”
No Angel in OF
Free agent outfielder Angel Pagan apparently isn’t the Pirates’ answer in right field. He told Puerto Rican website El Vocero on Wednesday he plans to take the season off entirely. Pagan, a .280 hitter in 11 major league seasons, went 10 for 35 for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic.
A familiar face
The New York Yankees’ road trip to Pittsburgh this weekend, their second series ever at PNC Park, will be a reunion for right-hander Ivan Nova, who is scheduled to start against his former team Sunday. Nova, signed by New York as an international free agent in 2008, played parts of seven seasons for the Yankees, posting a 53-39 record and a 4.41 ERA.
Nova is especially close with left-hander C.C. Sabathia, who is in line to start Friday. Sabathia took Nova under his wing early in his career and taught him the finer points of being a pitcher.
“He’s the type of guy who is hard to forget,” Nova said. “Awesome guy.”
Nova said he hasn’t texted any former teammates about their upcoming visit, and he won’t.
“They know me. They know the way I am and the way I think,” Nova said. “We are still friends, and we will be friends. I’ll say hello [on Friday], but after that they’ll be my enemy …”
“… at least for one day.”
Stephen J. Nesbitt: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.
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