PITTSBURGH (93-7 The FAN) – Mike Tomlin visited Pirates camp on St. Patrick’s Day and marveled at first baseman Josh Bell and the potential for him as a football player. A coach who preaches position flexibility, Tomlin would love the projected Pirates bench.
All but catcher Chris Stewart can play multiple positions and a guy like John Jaso seems to add a new position every week.
The 33 year-old Jaso converted from catcher to first baseman last year with amazing results. A .994 fielding percentage (5 errors in 800 chances) after Jaso worked during the off-season and then intensely with former Bucs Gold Glove first baseman Kevin Young during 2016 camp.
Now, the veteran has worked a game at third base during Spring Training, with no balls hit to him, and more consistently in right field, where he has made one error in 38 innings.
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“If I’m in right field, that means I’m playing, I’m in the lineup,” Jaso said. “It’s cool to have that variety and a different look, too.”
Used to action every pitch as a catcher and much more often as a first baseman, Jaso said it’s more peaceful in right than in the infield.
“(The other day) I was standing out there for 6-7 innings and I got one little grounder hit to me that I had to toss to the second baseman and that was all of the action I saw,” Jaso said. “Being a catcher, you’re in every single pitch. Right field, you are kind of looking around a lot and wondering if a ball will get hit to you. You still have to maintain your focus and realize situations like who’s on base, outs and so forth.”
And that standing around has been the biggest adjustment. He said even though it’s not a physical pounding, your body does need time to get used to it. His body is getting used to a number of positions, which is something he didn’t see during his climb to the majors.
“Coming up through the minor leagues, you are very specific when it comes to your position, then you come to the big leagues and managers want to be able to tinker around with things and move guys around, especially in the National League,” Jaso said. “There are all of these double switches happening, it’s nice for the manager to have guys that are more in the utility role, maybe it is becoming more a part of the game.”
And with Jaso’s veteran bat, which is over .300 with three homers this spring, it does allow Clint Hurdle to find a way to get him in the game. Not surprisingly from the laid-back Jaso, he truly is ok with playing wherever.
“I have a uniform on, it’s cool. I like it.”