Holt provides spark for Pirates while Walker mends
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One by one, the television cameras descended on Brock Holt's locker Wednesday afternoon, each crew seeking a moment with the Pirates' new offensive firecracker.
Such things happen when rookies do what Holt has done.
In 19 plate appearances spread over five games since the Pirates called up Holt Sept. 1, he hit .438 with a double and three RBIs.
Holt said, though, that he was fully aware of the miniscule sample size of his major league time.
"I'm trying to enjoy this moment, soak it all in, and try to just play baseball and have fun," he said.
"Fun" is the key word there, part of what Holt said helped him this season at Class AA Altoona and what is helping him enjoy the current success and playing time while he has them.
The success, brief as it is, is bona fide: He went 4 for 5 with a double Tuesday against the Houston Astros and became the second Pirate since 1900 to have a four-hit game within his first four major league games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau -- Jack Merson also went 4 for 5 in 1951.
Holt remained in Class AA until a month ago, then joined Class AAA Indianapolis for 24 games before debuting with the Pirates. He hit .322 with 24 doubles in 102 games during his second season with Altoona.
"I think I just started having fun, man, just try to enjoy the game," said Holt, 24. "I've wanted this my whole life."
Another thing he said he has wanted: to prove people wrong. Holt, a left-handed hitter, is listed at 5 feet 10, 170 pounds.
"I'm not the biggest guy, haven't always been one of the top prospects and all that stuff," Holt said. "I wanted to prove to myself and everyone else that I could do this.
"I'm fortunate enough to be in this situation and enjoy the experience so far."
The Pirates took Holt in the ninth round of the 2009 draft. He has always been able to hit for average, going back to his '09 season at Rice, when he hit .348 with 12 home runs. He never hit below .288 during a minor league season.
"He's got one of the best approaches I've seen," said Kyle McPherson, who first played in the minors with Holt in '09. "From a pitcher's standpoint, he gets in the box, he has such quick hands, it's hard to beat him inside. It's hard to put him away, even with good breaking stuff."
"I think my hands are one of my biggest attributes," Holt said. "I just try to simplify things."
Holt hit .351 with Class A Bradenton in '10, and then the doubles power began to develop. He hit at least 30 doubles in each of his next two minor league seasons. He also began to use his speed, stealing 18 bases in '11 and 16 this year before the Pirates called him up.
"It's torment," McPherson said of the effects of Holt's speed. "A guy like that can definitely torment you as a pitcher. He's definitely constantly in your mind.
"Regardless of if he's at the plate or on the basepaths, with his speed, and the tools that he brings to this game, it's a pleasure to watch."
Holt played shortstop at Navarro (Texas) Junior College, but switched to second base when he transferred to Rice. The Owls already had a shortstop in Rick Hague, a third-round draft pick in '10 now in Class A Potomac with the Washington Nationals organization. Holt has played more shortstop than second in the minors, but has played second in each game he has started for the Pirates.
That playing time might disappear when Neil Walker returns to the field. Walker hasn't played since Aug. 26 because of back tightness and likely will not return for the series against the Chicago Cubs this weekend.
Whether Walker returns or the hot start peters out, Holt's mantra will the same.
"Just trying to enjoy the game," he said. "That's what it is. If you sit back and look at it, it's a game, it's supposed to be fun. As long as you're having fun, I feel like your performance is going to reflect that."
First Published September 7, 2012 12:06 am