BRADENTON, Fla. (93-7 The Fan) – Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Michael McKenry joined The Fan Morning Show in Bradenton on Friday for a face-to-face chat about spring training and the offseason that was.
McKenry explained that he has focused his offseason workouts on becoming more versatile.
“I put on about 5 or 6 pounds, but I dropped a lot of body fat,” McKenry said. “Just trying to get as lean as possible, be ready for any scenario- whether I’m having to pinch run, pinch hit, play six to ten games in a row, play once every four days- I wanted to be able to do whatever this year. And last year was a good learning experience for me, the first time I ever had to do that. So I just wanted to be ready to help the team in any way possible.”
He is very enthusiastic to start working with new starting catcher Russell Martin.
“I think me and Russell are going to be batterymates,” McKenry said. “I think we’re going to be guys that root for each other, cheer for each other. We’re going to just pass the baton… every single day I show up to the ballpark, I’m going to hope I’m in the lineup. Every day, ‘Come on, be in the lineup, be in the lineup!’ and then he’s going to be the same way. And if we’re both like that every single day, I think great things can happen.”
He feels that having a lot of power pitchers might have contributed to the team’s issues with holding baserunners last season, but he is encouraged by the progress that both the pitchers and catchers have been making in that area during spring training.
“That’s one thing you’ve got with power arms- they’re not going to be real fast to the plate,” McKenry said. “We’ve got a lot of power arms. So they’re learning, they’re growing. A.J. Burnett, in his first outing the other day, picked somebody off. It was huge, gave him confidence. He’s really, really good at it, and he’s just gaining more and more confidence, and that’s what we need. He led by example that day.”
He has been amazed by 2011 first overall pick Gerrit Cole, who has been getting some action in spring training.
“He hides the ball as good as anybody on the staff right now,” McKenry said. “That ball just jumps on you. Not only does he throw 98 [miles per hour], but he hides the ball well, so a lot of guys were taking balls that I couldn’t believe they were taking.”
He explained that he was sad to see closer Joel Hanrahan get traded to the Red Sox, but is very confident in Jason Grilli’s ability to fill Hanrahan’s shoes.
“I’m going to miss the Hammer. I’m going to miss the 90 mile per hour sliders in the dirt,” McKenry said with a laugh. “I’m going to miss his walkout song. Everything about him I’m going to miss, but Jason Grilli’s going to step right in and do the job.”
He said the Pirates’ stable of pitchers is better than any that they have had during his time with the organization.
“It’s the best group of arms as a collective group I’ve seen,” McKenry said. “It’s really encouraging. From top to bottom, there’s no weak link. Clint Hurdle talks about the ‘weak link’- there’s no weak link in our pitching staff.”
Listen to McKenry on 93-7 The Fan: