Spring Synopsis: Gomez's work at shortstop key to bench
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BRADENTON, Fla. -- Notes, quotes and anecdotes from the Pirates' spring training ...Day 5:
The Pirates' two-hour workout yesterday, under mostly sunny skies, brisk winds and 70-degree temperatures at Pirate City, was the first without bullpen sessions. The focus was on fielding drills for the pitchers and catchers.
Ryan Doumit received an extra half-hour of catching lessons from manager John Russell, catching instructor Luis Dorante and minor-league catching coordinator Brad Fischer. Most of the emphasis was on footwork to help block pitches in the dirt.
Today: The signature day of spring training is the first full-squad workout, which begins at noon. Before that, team president Frank Coonelly, general manager Neal Huntington and Russell, among others, will address the team.
Owner Bob Nutting is traveling to Florida today and is scheduled to visit Pirate City tomorrow for the formal opening of the new headquarters building.
Camp roster: Sixty-seven players will participate in the workout today but only 65 are on the official major-league camp roster. All position players were due to report to Bradenton by midnight last night, and all were at Pirate City having physicals by 2 p.m., with shortstop Jack Wilson and first baseman Adam LaRoche arriving early enough to take batting and infield practice.
Injury updates: Second baseman Freddy Sanchez (shoulder) will not be part of the first full infield practice today, Russell said, because his throwing remains limited. He will continue to take grounders and hit. ... Reliever Damaso Marte (flu) began doing some light running, but he will not participate in the live batting practices pitchers are throwing the next four days. "He'll be a little behind," Russell said.
Battle lines: Expect utility infielder Chris Gomez to spend most of his spring at shortstop. The Pirates will have him playing at second and third base, too, but the most pressing issue toward shaping their bench will be seeing how well Gomez handles the infield's most athletic position.
If he can -- and there is a firm belief in that -- the team might not opt for two backup middle infielders, opening the door for someone such as Doug Mientkiewicz to crack the roster rather than a strict glove man such as Ray Olmedo or Luis Rivas.
But much remains unknown.
Fun in the sun: Outfielder Xavier Nady is determined to avoid his calamitous 2007 by steering clear of anything that resembles lousy luck.
So when he arrived Monday night in Bradenton, some teammates asked if he would like to accompany them to a local steakhouse. He thought about it for a moment, then recalled he ate there last year on the eve of spring training and, later that night, went to the hospital with a digestive ailment.
It turned out the two were unrelated -- he was diagnosed a week later as having an inflamed intestine, a condition that never returned -- but, just the same ...
"I told them, 'No, thanks,' " Nady said. "And hey, I made it through one night with nothing bad happening to me. I'm already one up on last year."
Overheard: LaRoche, aware he probably will face old friend John Smoltz in the Pirates' March 31 opener in Atlanta: "I'm taking him deep. Put that in the paper."
Countdown to Atlanta: 41 days.
First Published February 20, 2008 12:00 am