BRADENTON, Fla. -- Pirates utility man John Jaso just likes to see where the tides take him.Just like he has since he broke into the big leagues as a catcher with the Rays in 2008, the Southern California native with the full head of dreadlocks has been going with the
BRADENTON, Fla. -- Pirates utility man John Jaso just likes to see where the tides take him.
Just like he has since he broke into the big leagues as a catcher with the Rays in 2008, the Southern California native with the full head of dreadlocks has been going with the flow, whether it is a change in position, a change in role or just a bad day at the plate.
"That's just kind of how my boat floats down the river," Jaso said. "You'll never see much of a change in demeanor from me whether I strike out three times or hit three homers in a game."
That even-keeled approach is what helps make him a valuable player both on the field and in the clubhouse.
"John is as good a teammate as I've had in a clubhouse, and I've been managing a while now," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "He shows up every day and he will do whatever is asked of him to help his team win."
Not much bothers the man nicknamed "Mikey," a holdover from his early days with the Rays when first baseman Carlos Pena couldn't remember his name during a road trip. Jaso just went with it.
"After [then-manager Joe] Maddon started calling me that, the name stuck," Jaso said.
"Mikey" got the start at first base and batted third in the Pirates' game against the Minnesota Twins at LECOM Park on Sunday. Jaso went 1-for-2, was hit by a pitch and scored a run in a 4-3 win. So far this spring Jaso is batting .263 with a home run and four RBIs.
Jaso has also been seeing more time in the outfield this spring, both as a way to increase his versatility and a way to fill in some of the lineup gaps from players taking part in the World Baseball Classic, including the entire starting outfield of Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco and Andrew McCutchen.
"It's a little bit weird with so many of the guys gone for the WBC," Jaso said. "But it's been fun. First base is still my priority, but I've been able to get some time in right field because the guys are gone. I like having that versatility for myself. I don't want to be anchored down to just one position.
"I don't see myself breaking the lineup with the outfield we already have, but it is nice to give them another option if they need to use it."
Last season with Pittsburgh, the first of a two-year, $8 million deal, Jaso batted .268 with eight home runs, 25 doubles and 42 RBIs.
On top of his contribution on the field, his laid-back demeanor helps a team that is expected to compete for a postseason spot while weathering the ups and downs of a long season.
"He's got no ego, he's very smart," Hurdle said. "He's still the one player I've never seen complain about a call at the plate in the full year and Spring Training I've had him, and I can't say that about anyone. Whatever happens, happens, and he just moves on."
"That's just how the game is with that roller-coaster ride of failure and success," Jaso said. "If you rack your brain when things don't go your way, which is like 70 percent of the time for the best players, you are just going to drill yourself into the ground."
J. Scott Butherus is a contributor to MLB.com.