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Dickerson debuts, eager to play left every day

Bucs' Hurdle feels former DH will fare well as full-time OF
Special to MLB.com

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Traditionally, the back fields of LECOM Park are not where you find a lot of excitement. However, for the newly acquired Corey Dickerson, there was a certain level of anticipation there Saturday morning.

Acquired from the Rays on Feb. 22, Dickerson took time to be with his family for the birth of his second child before reporting to the Pirates' Spring Training complex. For the first time in several weeks, he has the chance to focus on baseball.

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BRADENTON, Fla. -- Traditionally, the back fields of LECOM Park are not where you find a lot of excitement. However, for the newly acquired Corey Dickerson, there was a certain level of anticipation there Saturday morning.

Acquired from the Rays on Feb. 22, Dickerson took time to be with his family for the birth of his second child before reporting to the Pirates' Spring Training complex. For the first time in several weeks, he has the chance to focus on baseball.

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"It's nice to have that kind of focus again," Dickerson said after Saturday's 4-3 win over the Phillies. "It won't take too many at-bats. I think it's just getting a feel, getting your timing down, seeing multiple pitches and work deep in counts. If you can work deep in counts, you get a good read on your swing and you keep telling yourself that you're seeing the ball pretty well."

Last season, Dickerson saw the ball very well during the first half. In the 85 games before the All-Star break, while with Tampa Bay, he posted a .312/.355/.548 slash line. His 17 home runs, 42 RBIs and 60 runs scored earned him a trip to the All-Star Game in Miami.

In his first plate appearance Saturday, Dickerson worked starter Ben Lively to a nine-pitch at-bat before striking out. Dickerson's second effort brought the home fans to their feet. However, Phillies left fielder Dylan Cozens -- after swapping positions with right fielder Aaron Altherr -- was able to track down Dickerson's fly ball just before the warning track. Dickerson's day was done after five innings in the field.

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He didn't see much action in left field, but he remembers how difficult it can be to play the outfield at LECOM Park. The first fly ball hit in his direction was a little challenging to pick up.

"I remember last year when we came here. A couple guys dropped some balls and let them hit the ground because of the sun," he said. "My first ball today was a pretty good sun ball and it looked like a black dot."

Dickerson was outspoken about doing whatever it takes to help his new club win. He's a "competitor" and willing to contribute in any way possible. He is also glad to have the opportunity to play left field every day.

"That's what I trained for in the offseason, that's what I anticipated," Dickerson said. "No matter where I was, I'm a competitor. I just want to be out there helping the team on the field, defensively and offensively."

Video: PHI@PIT: Hurdle discusses Nova and Dickerson

Manger Clint Hurdle is glad to have the added flexibility that Dickerson brings.

"It's a bat that plays," Hurdle said. "With some extra-base power, some home run power, he's also shown the ability to hit in different spots of the lineup. He actually led off a lot for Tampa Bay."

Last season Dickerson played 89 games in left and 55 as the designated hitter. The Pirates skipper is not concerned with his ability to be a full-time outfielder.

"The foot speed is there to cover range," he said. "He just needs some more opportunity. Sometimes players get pigeon-holed into a one-dimensional facet. I don't think he's by any means a DH. I think he's a left fielder that can swing the bat."

Video: Dickerson excited to join the Pirates after trade

With Starling Marte set as the center fielder, Dickerson was asked how quickly the two will become comfortable together.

"I think pretty quickly. Just being able to read how much ground he can cover, that makes your job so much easier," he said of Marte. "See how he communicates, where he wants to move me, and then just feed off him. He's a great athlete and he covers a lot of ground, so it makes your job a lot easier."

Dickerson will have the day off Sunday as the team heads south to Fort Myers, Fla., where they'll face the Twins. He will be back in action the following day against the Braves.

Kris Dunn is a contributor to MLB.com.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Corey Dickerson