BRADENTON, Fla. -- Jose Osuna has spent less than a year working at third base, and there's more work to be done. He possesses a strong outfield arm, but his range is limited. What about first base? No questions there, as Osuna showed in the Pirates' 11-8 win over the
BRADENTON, Fla. -- Jose Osuna has spent less than a year working at third base, and there's more work to be done. He possesses a strong outfield arm, but his range is limited. What about first base? No questions there, as Osuna showed in the Pirates' 11-8 win over the Twins at LECOM Park on Monday.
"He's our best defensive first baseman," manager Clint Hurdle said. "If you don't know that, it just means you haven't got to watch him a lot throughout our Minor League system. Everybody raves about his defense at first base."
With two outs in the sixth, Osuna backhanded a particularly tough bounce off the bat of Max Kepler and, with his momentum taking him toward the mound, quickly threw the ball to reliever Michael Feliz at first base to end the inning. He also made a backhanded stop and flip to starter Nick Kingham in the fourth.
Osuna is making a strong case to join the Pirates' Opening Day roster, as he did last Spring Training. In addition to his strong defensive performance, he led off the fifth inning by slugging his fourth home run, tied with Sean Rodriguez for most on the team in Grapefruit League play. He didn't make the club out of camp last spring, but he's once again given himself a shot.
"I have a chance, but I don't control that. The only thing I can control is go out and play hard. It's not my decision," Osuna said. "I can't control the decision. The only thing I can control is my effort, playing hard every day, trying to do everything good. If they send me to Triple-A, I have to go to Triple-A and work hard. If I stay on the roster, it's good for me, it's perfect. I have to keep working."
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Osuna's power and defensive versatility could work in his favor, though the bench's composition might hurt his case. The club already has a dedicated backup at first and third in David Freese. Sean Rodriguez and Adam Frazier can play anywhere, and both cover more ground in the outfield. Among Osuna's competition is Bryce Brentz, a right-handed-hitting corner outfielder who is out of options.
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The Pirates will have to make that decision over the next week, before Opening Day, and Osuna continues to make it a difficult one. At the plate, he is 12-for-37 this spring. At first base, Hurdle compared his quick feet and soft hands to those of two-time Gold Glove Award winner Andres Galarraga.
"It's my regular position. I feel great over there," Osuna said. "I'm trying to be great at the other positions. That's how you have to be to be in the big leagues. I have to keep working to feel that confidence in the other positions."
Around the horn
• Nick Kingham gave up six runs on eight hits and a walk, with one strikeout in 3 2/3 innings against the Twins. The Twins capitalized on Kingham's mistakes, particularly pitches up in the zone, as Miguel Sano and James Dozier each homered.
"Hitting's hard, but they're going to hit it sometimes," he said. "I just need to work on working the bottom half of the zone, have them put the ball in play, and put it on the ground."
• Ivan Nova was scheduled to throw 100 pitches in a Minor League game at Pirate City on Monday. Also making the trip to Pirate City were Felipe Rivero (two innings), George Kontos (two innings), Dovydas Neverauskas and Bo Schultz.
• Right-hander Michael Feliz allowed two hits and a walk, but pitched two scoreless innings against the Twins. Left-hander Josh Smoker permitted three hits and walked two batters, while striking out two in 1 2/3 innings.
The Pirates will face the Red Sox on Tuesday in Fort Myers, Fla. Joe Musgrove is scheduled to make his second Grapefruit League start, likely pitching about four innings, with Francisco Cervelli behind the plate, Josh Harrison at second, Colin Moran at third, Frazier in left field and Rodriguez in center. Bullpen candidates Kevin Siegrist, Edgar Santana and Tyler Jones are also expected to pitch for the Bucs as they face Boston lefty David Price. First pitch is set for 1:05 p.m. ET. Listen live via an exclusive webcast on pirates.com.
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.