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Red-hot Osuna putting Bucs on notice

Outfielder hit two-run homer in game, extends total to 5 this spring
MLB.com

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- The Pirates might have the hottest hitter in baseball this spring: Jose Osuna.

Osuna continued his scorching Spring Training season with a two-run homer in Pittsburgh's 5-4 win over Tampa Bay on Monday at Charlotte Sports Park. It was his team-leading fifth home run and increased his team-high RBI total to 14. Overall, Osuna is batting .417/.500/.889 in 36 at-bats over 15 Grapefruit League games.

Full Game Coverage

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- The Pirates might have the hottest hitter in baseball this spring: Jose Osuna.

Osuna continued his scorching Spring Training season with a two-run homer in Pittsburgh's 5-4 win over Tampa Bay on Monday at Charlotte Sports Park. It was his team-leading fifth home run and increased his team-high RBI total to 14. Overall, Osuna is batting .417/.500/.889 in 36 at-bats over 15 Grapefruit League games.

Full Game Coverage

"You can tell it's a pretty legit swing," shortstop Jordy Mercer said. "He's just going about his business the right way. It's pretty cool to see a young kid like that step in right away and handle his own."

Osuna, the Pirates' No. 29 prospect according to MLBPipeline.com, wasn't a popular pick to make the Bucs' Opening Day roster at the start of camp, but he still has a chance -- and those odds improve if Jung Ho Kang's absence creates an extra open spot on the bench.

Video: PIT@DET: Osuna hits solo shot to center

The Pirates added Osuna, with 63 games of Triple-A experience, to their 40-man roster over the offseason. After the Bucs promoted him, manager Clint Hurdle said he received calls from people asking about the first baseman/outfielder. What did Hurdle tell them?

"'Obviously you haven't paid attention,'" Hurdle said. "Osuna's gotten a lot of other [teams'] attention -- [but he's surprising] nobody in our development system."

Osuna's competition for a roster spot includes Phil Gosselin, a more versatile defender with a longer track record in the Majors. Osuna is most comfortable at first base, where the Pirates have plenty of more proven options. He can play third, but it's unlikely he'll get into a game there this spring. Osuna's deficiencies in the outfield showed Monday, as he struggled to track down a Patrick Leonard fly ball that landed in right field for a double.

"He's been a developing player. He's mature in the box. He has a slow heartbeat. He's going to defend the way he defends," Hurdle said. "Outfield, the range is the range. It is what it is. What he gets to, he's going to handle. The box, though, is where I believe he's going to be an impactful player."

Around the horn

• Mercer walked twice and took a high fastball from Rays starter Blake Snell deep to left field, his third homer of the spring.

• Gosselin started in left field but played the final two innings at first base. Hurdle has mentioned Gosselin as a potential late-inning defender at first base, similar to the role Sean Rodriguez played the past two seasons.

Jameson Taillon, who started Monday, is expected to make one more start in Florida before pitching in one of the Pirates' exhibition games against the Blue Jays in Montreal.

• Left-hander Wade LeBlanc, competing for a spot in the Opening Day bullpen, struck out four over two scoreless innings and earned the save.

• With innings harder to find in the Grapefruit League and Chad Kuhl set to start against the Rays on Tuesday at LECOM Park, Ivan Nova will pitch in a Minor League game at Pirate City in Bradenton.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Jose Osuna