Over this past week, my compadres and I with The Fan Morning Show spent the days at McKechnie Field dissecting and scrutinizing the Pittsburgh Pirates as they go through the rigors of Spring Training.
Many, many things jumped out — including Jim Colony’s lifesaving abilities to be the man who remembered the sunscreen for all of us — but a few rose to the surface as the most important.READ MORE: Police: Central Catholic High School No Longer At Risk For Threat After Arrest Made Following Social Media Comments
In no particular order, here are five observations…
• Kang’s presence is a non-issue: When he first made his way to camp, much-publicized Korean infielder Jung-ho Kang had a ton of scuttlebutt and fanfare around him, largely pushed forward by a horde of media from his homeland following his every twitch. Now many of those media members have retreated and Kang has simply folded into this team as just another player. In my observation, he offered absolutely zero off-field distraction. Furthermore, in the international language of baseball, his glove spoke louder than many anticipated as he was sure-handed in drills at third, short and second.
• AJ is a different AJ: In his first go-round with the Pirates, pitcher A.J. Burnett could border on displeasing, with a side to him that, well, was off-putting at times.
The crazy part? A team that hadn’t yet won kind of needed that. This bunch, however, is different because they enter into a season where they come off of back-to-back winning seasons. That said, Burnett is savvy to his surroundings and has pulled back the machismo noticeably and, while he is still an unabashed leader, he is much more subtle and not as loud. This A.J., at this time, seems exactly what this team needs — just like that old A.J., at that time, was exactly what the team a few seasons ago needed.READ MORE: Funeral Arrangements Made For Pittsburgh Police Sergeant Richard Howe
• Pedro not doing this alone: There has been an incredible amount of attention paid to Pedro Alvarez and his transition from third base to first — and rightly so, as it is a top storyline around this organization. That said, however, it isn’t an undertaking he’s jumping into alone. Seemingly to a man — especially guys like Jordy Mercer, Josh Harrison, Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker — this team has really rallied around Alvarez to help ease the transition. Alvarez could regularly be seen taking additional work at first with a coach to accumulate more repetitions than normal to try to learn the position. But, his teammates (especially the aforementioned ones) were all caught in various moments during the week making a point to go extra lengths to help him either on or off the field.
• Polanco is massive: Gregory Polanco simply wore down last season. He was too frail, too slight. His body couldn’t withstand the rigors of the pounding Major League Baseball did to him. So what did he do? He transformed his body. No kidding, Polanco now strikes me as the body type of a young Dave Parker. When I asked him how much he weighed last season, Polanco said he was 215 pounds. Now though, he informed me he’s at 235. And, trust me, standing next to him, he’s built like a pillar. It should undeniably help.
• Sean Rodriguez is a darkhorse: Looking for the next Josh Harrison? Or, at least this year’s Josh Harrison? It just might be Sean Rodriguez, the ultra-versatile utility guy the Pirates picked up from Tampa Bay in the offseason. Clint Hurdle said he could use Rodriguez at as many as seven positions, with shortstop and center field being the two outliers where he would be least comfortable. All that said, more than a few of Rodriguez’s teammates have confided in me that if they were to bet on a surprise story for this season, it would be Rodriguez providing a heavy helping hand.
Colin Dunlap is a featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weekdays from 5:40 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at email@example.com. Check out his bio here.MORE NEWS: 'Everybody Loved Him'; Rennerdale Community Comes Together To Celebrate Life Of Louis Vignone, Postal Worker Shot, Killed In Collier Township