CINCINNATI -- Pirates left fielder Corey Dickerson is lending his Gold Glove defense to a good cause.
Dickerson and his wife, Beth Anne, on Friday announced the launch of their "Assists for Autism" initiative, an effort to support people with autism and their families. The Dickersons will donate $100 for every outfield assist recorded throughout the Majors in April, which is Autism Awareness Month.
The Dickersons will also donate $1,000 for every outfield assist recorded by the Pirates from May 1 until the end of the season. Pittsburgh finished last season with 33 outfield assists, including seven by Dickerson.
“Definitely going to put our best foot forward to try to make as many outs as we can, not really hold back anything,” Dickerson said Saturday. “I hope other players feel encouraged to lend a hand also -- and fans, we hope they jump on board, too. We encourage them to. It could be a great thing.”
Dickerson said he and his wife have been thinking for years about finding a cause that they could get behind. They were inspired by Beth Anne’s best friend, who has an autistic daughter and another young child.
“To have a close friend of ours go through it on a daily basis, with a child with autism and having another child, the lack of resources and also the family side, with the hard dynamics along with that,” Dickerson said. “It really touched us and touched my wife, because she’s in communication with her every single day. It feels like family to us. To be able to step in and try to make a difference is huge for us.”
The funds raised through the Dickersons' initiative will be donated to Autism Speaks, a nonprofit organization that works to advance research and increase understanding and acceptance of people with autism spectrum disorder. The Dickersons will work with various organizations to host children with autism and their families at PNC Park this season. Pirates Charities will donate all proceeds from the 50/50 raffle at PNC Park on May 5, which is the Pirates’ annual Autism Awareness Day, to the Dickersons' initiative.
“I’m very blessed to be able to have this platform,” Dickerson said. “It won’t always be here forever; money, you can’t take it with you. You want to be able to help other people, help people change, help people with autism and the things that are going on in their daily life. The last year, we’ve talked about it and tried to put a plan together.”
The Pirates are also encouraging fans to donate to Autism Speaks along with the Dickersons for every outfield assist in April. More information will be made available on Sunday at pledgeit.org/assists-for-autism.
“It could grow. I hope it does. I hope we set records next month,” Dickerson said. “I hope we set a record every month for assists, because these people are most important.”
Around the horn
• Right-hander Jordan Lyles, who is on the injured list due to right side discomfort, joined the Pirates in Cincinnati on Saturday after throwing 92 pitches over six innings in a Minor League game in Florida on Friday.
Manager Clint Hurdle said there is a plan in place for Lyles, but the club has not yet revealed when he will come off the injured list and make his season debut. Lyles’ stint on the IL was backdated to March 25, so he is eligible to be activated on Thursday.
• Center fielder Starling Marte was “ready to go” on Saturday after sitting out Opening Day due to a migraine headache, Hurdle said. Marte was a full participant in an optional workout on Friday.
• One bright spot in the Pirates’ 5-3 loss to the Reds on Opening Day was rookie reliever Nick Burdi's performance, striking out the side on 14 pitches in the eighth inning. Burdi’s fastball touched 97.6 mph, and the Reds swung and missed on four of the nine sliders he threw.
This time last year, Burdi was a Rule 5 Draft Pick still working his way back from Tommy John surgery. He made two appearances for Pittsburgh last September, when he allowed four runs (three earned) on two hits and a walk while recording one out in his Major League debut against the Cardinals.
“What a difference a season makes, from the time he was on the mound in St. Louis at the end of the season to the young man we saw take the mound the day before yesterday,” Hurdle said. “It was good for him to get out there and get engaged and maybe knock off that first-day anxiety or anticipation.”
• The Pirates on Saturday traded right-hander Aaron Slegers, who was designated for assignment on Thursday, to the Rays in exchange for cash considerations. The Pirates removed Slegers from their 40-man roster to make room on Opening Day for non-roster invitees Francisco Liriano, Melky Cabrera and JB Shuck.