Pirates Notebook: Eldred completes big leap
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BRADENTON, Fla. -- Big Country made the big team.
Despite missing most of last season to injury, despite having to impress at a position he previously had played in college, Brad Eldred was added to the Pirates' 25-man roster that was completed yesterday.
"Yeah, it's pretty exciting," he said, smiling.
Eldred earned it: His average wound up at .303, and he had six home runs -- one in each of his first four games -- along with six doubles and 13 RBIs. He also walked 11 times to boost a .403 on-base percentage that, given his history of poor pitch selection, might have pleased management even more than his surprisingly efficient play in right field.
"I didn't expect it, but I'm always open-minded," general manager Dave Littlefield said. "I give him a tremendous amount of credit."
Eldred has not played in the majors since 2005, having been limited to 18 games with Class AAA Indianapolis last season because his left thumb was fractured and severely dislocated by a collision on the basepaths.
In an odd way, Eldred said, the long layoff might have helped. He spent the down time studying video of his approach and noticed he was not staying back long enough to recognize pitches.
"I saw what I had to do, and I came in here and did it," he said. "It just shows that hard work will let you do well."
Ryan Doumit and Humberto Cota were the others who filled out the roster, but it still was not clear what role Doumit will play.
Ronny Paulino and Cota are solely catchers, and Doumit mostly caught in the spring. Doumit also can play right field and first base and, in theory, would have done more of that to be cast in a bench-type role.
So, what is he?
"Doumit's main job is as a catcher," Littlefield said yesterday.
Doumit batted .267 with one home run -- his only RBI -- two doubles and seven walks in 31 at-bats.
"I ironed out a few wrinkles I had, and I'm excited," he said.
Cota appeared in just 14 games but batted .333 with a home run and 12 RBIs.
He acknowledged it seemed "weird" to be back with the Pirates after his .190 average last season ranked last in Major League Baseball, but added that he felt different because of an uplifting winter-ball season in his native Mexico.
"I got to be the man there, and I got some reps," Cota said.
Paulino's final tally: .481
The Pirates finished their Grapefruit League season 12-17-3 after a 6-4 loss to the Minnesota Twins in Fort Myers.
More significant, Paulino finished his monster spring with two RBI doubles in three at-bats and raised his average to .481. He had four home runs, five doubles and a team-high 17 RBIs.
"He's been phenomenal," manager Jim Tracy said.
Other game highlights
Paul Maholm faced Minnesota's full lineup for five innings and was tagged for four runs on six hits and two walks. Joe Mauer did most of the damage with a three-run double in the third. His ERA wound up 3.38.
Adam LaRoche had two doubles in three at-bats and, thanks to a late surge, batted .286.
That alleged duel between Jose Castillo and Jose Bautista? Castillo went 2 for 3 to finish at .328. Bautista went 0 for 3 and stranded four runners to finish at .182. Each player walked twice all spring.
Right fielder Xavier Nady, slowed by a tight right calf the past three days, reported "no problem" yesterday and went 1 for 2 against the Twins.
The Pirates flew to Houston after the game. They will have a workout this afternoon at Minute Maid Park.
First Published April 1, 2007 12:00 am