Pirates' Overbay eager to be part of the solution
TAMPA, Fla. -- At 34, Lyle Overbay is the oldest player on the Pirates roster by a few months.
The left-handed hitting first baseman signed a one-year, $5 million deal in mid-December.
First-year manager Clint Hurdle hopes Overbay will be able to bring some clubhouse leadership to a team that has suffered through 18 consecutive losing seasons and is stacked with several players in their 20s.
"He's a veteran guy that I think will add a dynamic that we didn't really have internally," Hurdle said.
Overbay, 6 feet 2 and 220 pounds, is a lifetime .274 hitter who slipped to .243 last season with the Toronto Blue Jays, and he didn't attract much interest from other teams before signing with the Pirates.
"Obviously, the Pirates were being aggressive," Overbay said. "I looked at the situation, where the Pirates are and some of the other teams I was looking at, and I just think it was a better situation here and they were going in a better direction.
"To be honest, it's personal, too. I think Clint Hurdle brings a lot to the hitting and I'm a hitter. I see what he did with Texas, what he's done with some very good hitters."
The Rangers led the majors with a .276 batting average last season with Hurdle as hitting coach and advanced to the World Series.
The Pirates, on other hand, had the second-lowest team batting average at .242.
"A small-market team gets their young guys and works around those guys," Overbay said. "I think in the past, they have had maybe one or two guys like that here. I think now they've got like six or seven they can kind of build around. So they are pointing us in the right direction; they're moving forward.
"Obviously, we got to go out and prove it. You can talk all you want, but we got to go out there and do the little things to win the ballgame and not accept [losing] within the 25 guys here.
"We got to be held accountable for the stuff that we're doing. I want to be a part of this, the solution, the change, and be a part of something special."
Overbay, who also has played for the Arizona Diamondbacks, Milwaukee Brewers and Blue Jays in his 10-year career, set career highs with Toronto in 2006 for average (.312), home runs (22) and RBIs (92).
His average dipped to .243 last year, and although he slugged 20 homers and 67 RBIs, he struck out a career-high 131 times.
"Can he drive a ball out of the park? Yes," Hurdle said. "Can he drive in runs? Yes. Has he got a slow heartbeat when he plays in the field and [is] at the plate? Yes. Those are the things we were looking for."
Overbay has averaged 30 or more doubles in each of the past seven seasons, including a career-high of 53 with the Brewers in 2004.
"He's a good hitter with power. I think he might have gotten caught up in the Toronto long ball thing last year, I don't know. We've talked about some things. If he hits doubles and wears out gaps, he's going to drive in runs."
Overbay, batting .381 in eight games this spring with two homers and three RBIs, said Hurdle already is making an influence.
"I think I know how to hit. But at the same time, I think Clint and [hitting coach Gregg] Ritchie are both on the same page," he said. "I'm going to deal with Ritchie a little bit more than him, but I know that they're seeing eye-to-eye on the little things that can help my game."
Overbay's defense doesn't need much fine-tuning. He ranked second among American League first basemen with a .996 fielding percentage last season, making just six errors.
"He's very good at digging balls out," Hurdle said. "He's very good at moving his feet to get in the right position. His all-around game is good for us."
Overbay also led all AL first basemen in double plays (150) and assists (101) while ranking second in putouts (1,301) and total chances (1,417).
"The biggest thing for me defensive-wise is to kind of get to know all the guys in the infield as far as their throwing, their release points, that type of stuff," Overbay said.
• Pirates starter Kevin Correia (0-1) struggled again Wednesday night, surrendering six hits and three runs in four innings in a 4-2 loss to the New York Yankees. "Not bad," Correia said. "A couple pitches, I didn't really like. I'm getting a ground ball when I need it and a strikeout when I need it. It's just what happens before that."
• The Pirates struck out 16 times against five Yankees pitchers, just three days after fanning 13 times Sunday against the Philadelphia Phillies.
• Andrew McCutchen and Matt Diaz had two hits each for the Pirates, who had eight singles and one double for their nine hits.
• Hurdle continues to use his pitchers to hit even when the DH spot is available against AL teams. "Anybody that watched our club last year saw the lack of execution we had from our pitchers," he said. "It was really worse than a soft spot in our lineup."
"I looked at the situation, where the Pirates are and some of the other teams I was looking at, and I just think it was a better situation here ..."
First Published March 10, 2011 12:00 am