Frazier returns to Pirates; Newman's hot bat
Just days after opting out of his deal, Todd Frazier is back with the Pirates on a Minor League deal, the team announced Tuesday.
Frazier’s departure in the final week of spring camp came as a minor surprise, given the production the 35-year-old had in spring and the way his teammates talked about the positive effect he had on the team. The Pirates informed Frazier that he would not make the Opening Day roster, as the club opted for the more versatile Phillip Evans as the infield utility man.
General manager Ben Cherington said on Tuesday that the Pirates still had interest in Frazier, if they could work out a deal. Given Frazier’s showing in Spring Training -- a .643 slugging percentage with two doubles and three homers in 12 games -- it made sense he would want to gauge interest in a Major League opportunity.
Now, Frazier will start the year at the Pirates’ alternate training site in Pittsburgh, which will be split across three locations.
“He was a fun guy to have around, a light-hearted guy, brings a lot of energy and has a lot of experience,” shortstop Kevin Newman said. “It was cool playing with him and picking his brain. I’m excited for him to be around and to continue to learn from a guy like that."
Newman confident in himself, Bucs batters
No one has been hotter with the bat this spring that Newman.
After an 0-for-2 day on Tuesday in the Pirates’ 1-1 tie in seven innings with the Twins to end their Grapefruit League slate, Newman set the record for batting average in a single Spring Training (minimum 30 plate appearances) at .606. The previous mark was held by the A's Todd Linden at .586 in 2008. (Note: Spring Training stats became official in 2006.)
Newman also did not strike out the entire spring over a stretch of 39 plate appearances. Which one was more impressive?
“I'll take both of them, honestly,” Newman said. “Pretty cool. Definitely a fun spring. Probably the hottest streak I've ever had, which is a lot of fun, but excited for the regular season. Definitely a new slate, so looking to carry it into here.”
Newman’s incredible stretch of hitting led to some clubhouse and dugout fun along the way. Ke’Bryan Hayes said Monday that he’d tell Newman, “Save some hits for me!”
Newman said the other day that he felt something on his shoulder. It turned out to be Wilmer Difo trying to get some hits to rub off of Newman onto him.
“I look, and he was subtly trying to brush up on me,” Newman said. “That's kind of some of the superstition that goes with baseball.”
But the hot spring was not Newman’s alone. Adam Frazier batted .488, and Hayes hit .431, while all three tied for the team lead with six doubles. After posting a career-worst .188 average last year, Bryan Reynolds was back over .300 -- where he’s been in every year since his freshman year at Vanderbilt, outside of 2020. They’re using it not as reassurance, but rather as motivation.
“We've got a bunch of guys that are hitting well, and we're not just complacent and happy with it,” Newman said. “We're really trying to talk about what we're doing well so we can carry it into the season and we can remember those feels and the work that we're putting in now so that it carries us through the year.”
Something in the water
In the never-ending battle of antics between Pirates manager Derek Shelton and Twins manager Rocco Baldelli, the latter got the last laugh on Tuesday to end Spring Training.
Before the game, the Twins played a video depicting a famous scene in the movie “Jaws.” Chief Brody, spotting the gargantuan shark in the water, alerts shark hunter Quint of the beast, saying, “You’re going to need a bigger boat.”
Only, in the Twins’ take on this scene, a surprised Shelton is overlaid on Quint’s face, while the Pirate Parrot captains the ship. A Twins flag pokes out near the shark's fin as it approaches the ship menacingly.
This comes one day after Shelton had a bit of his own fun, when he noticed that Twins first-base coach Tommy Watkins was wearing a Minnesota Rocco Baldelli jersey.
“I said, 'Well, we can fix that,'” Shelton said.
So Shelton had an assistant run a Pirates jersey with his name on the back to the elder Watkins, who wore it for the rest of the game -- and more.
“I looked up midway through the game and Tommy's stepmom and dad and my mom were actually having a conversation, which they've known each other from the time I was in Pittsburgh,” Shelton said, “and Mr. Watkins had a Pirates hat on, too. So we went full reversal on him today."
After an off-day on Wednesday, the new season begins. The Pirates will travel to Wrigley Field on Thursday to face the Cubs on Opening Day at 2:20 p.m. ET. Chad Kuhl will make his first career Opening Day start in his eighth year as a member of the Bucs organization. Kyle Hendricks will go for Chicago, and the game will be aired live on AT&T Sportsnet and MLB.TV.