BRADENTON, Florida (93-7 THE FAN) – With just about everyone in camp that’s supposed to be in camp – minus one catcher but plus several early position players – Tuesday was Physical Day at Pirate City, technically the day before any real work is supposed to begin. Nonetheless, there was action around the complex in Bradenton.
-The first update came early, just after 7 a.m., as the team reported that catcher Elias Diaz is still in Venezuela, spending time with his family after the safe return of his mother from a harrowing kidnapping ordeal earlier in the week. Diaz’s report date has been termed “TBD” by the club as they allow him all the time he needs.
-Francisco Cervelli spoke at length about the departures of Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen, and also what he expects from a team he called an underdog and “off the radar.” He also added though that he’s been in close contact with Diaz, and emphasized that what we’ve seen over the past week with Diaz and his family is not an isolated incident in his home country.
“You guys only see Elias’s mom kidnapped. But everyday there’s so many. Every city, Venezuela is like a bomb right now. It’s crazy. I have so much family there, and I feel scared to say something now, because we’re dealing with people with different ideas. It’s hard. … I went a couple days to the beach, and I was supposed to not have the phone with me, but those four days, I was just talking to Elias, (Jose) Osuna, to Herby (Andrade, Bullpen Catcher). To figure out what’s going on. I think we are the closest people to feel what’s going on, because we know, or we have family that something like that happened. I have a cousin, years ago they tried to kidnap him. Probably Felipe (Rivero) knows someone that got kidnapped. It’s crazy.”
-Cervelli worked out with countryman Rivero, while most of the pitchers played catch with each other. Podcast buddies Steven Brault and Trevor Williams were together, newcomers Josh Smoker and Joe Musgrove paired off, Tyler Glasnow and Nick Kingham, Chad Kuhl and A.J. Schugel, and George Kontos shared some tips on replicating his delivery when throwing his slider to Dovydas Neverauskas.
-Early arriving position players include a bevy of youngsters and newcomers, headlined by Josh Bell, who took some impromptu infield with Colin Moran & Max Moroff at third base, Kevin Newman & Cole Tucker at shortstop, and Kevin Kramer & Chris Bostick at second base.
Go back and scroll through those names again. Then consider what Bell is doing by showing up early, getting in extra work, and doing it with some guys who could be surrounding him on the major league roster in the next year or two. “After a couple of years, maybe I can start backing off,” said Bell. “But I feel like me, right now in my prime, I might as well push my body a little bit and sacrifice that for the team. I’m willing to do that.”
That’s leadership by example, even if Bell hasn’t been anointed a ‘leader’ yet by anyone.
-While we’re discussing Bell’s leadership skills, it would be remiss to not point out the time he spent in the cage before infield working with Tucker on his approach from the left side of the plate. Tucker, a switch-hitter like Bell, looks to have filled out some more over the winter. No longer the 6-foot-3 string bean he appeared to be when drafted out of high school four years ago, he’s hit just 12 HRs in 1384 minor league plate appearances, but is up to 200 lbs in the team’s official media guide this spring, a 15-pound gain from last season.
-Moran doesn’t come over from the Astros organization with a reputation as a great glove man at the hot corner, but both he and Tucker flashed a little leather on the left side during their brief infield work. Moran dug out a chopper in the dirt, and Tucker ranged far in to the hole to his left and snagged a high chopper before firing to first on the move. It elicited a few hoots and cheers from teammates and coaches, and showed why Tucker will be perfectly comfortable as the Pirates’ starting shortstop in another year or two.
Bullpens start Wednesday for the pitchers, as Michael Feliz, Tyler Glasnow, Daniel Hudson, George Kontos, Ivan Nova, Felipe Rivero, Bo Schultz, and Josh Smoker will throw at 11am. At 11:20 it will be Steven Brault, Kyle Crick, Tyler Jones, Jordan Milbrath, Joe Musgrove, Casey Sadler, A.J. Schugel, and Jameson Taillon.