New Pirates slugger McGehee ready to try 1B
BRADENTON, Fla. (AP)
McGehee was drafted in 2003 as a third baseman by the Chicago Cubs. Over the past three seasons, he started 353 games at third for the Milwaukee Brewers. And then, of course, the Pirates traded for him in December.
To play first base.
''Hopefully, we can stop the merry-go-round and end my tour of the National League Central,'' McGehee said Friday before the Pirates' first full-squad workout of spring training.
To do that, McGehee must indeed become a first baseman. The Pirates want McGehee, a four-year veteran, to platoon with Garrett Jones, a left-handed hitter, as they try to build off last year's success.
Oh, and by the way: McGehee has started just one game in his career at first base.
''He's got limited experience at first, but we had him out there moving around and I don't think it's going (badly),'' manager Clint Hurdle said. ''We'll see where the competition takes us.''
If things go well, McGehee might become the full-timer there. A right-handed batter, he hits as well against righties (.266 batting average, .428 slugging percentage) as he does against lefties (.261, .420).
Jones, 30, shows power against right-handers (.275, .483), but has no success against left-handers (.199, .364).
Somewhere in there for the Pirates, there's a happy medium.
The Brewers lost patience with McGehee last season, when he hit .220 with hit a career-low 13 homers. He said an early-season funk led him to tinker too much with his swing.
''Sometimes, I lose sight of the fact that I'm plenty strong enough and I don't have to be grunting, spitting and sweating on every pitch, trying to drive the ball,'' McGehee said. ''This year, my focus is just on trying to hit balls hard with backspin. If I do that consistently, I'll hit my fair share of home runs.''
McGehee is, at best, an average fielder with limited range. Surgeries in 2009 and 2010 to remove bone fragments in his right knee limited his offseason conditioning.
This past winter, McGehee worked with a nutritionist in Tennessee and reformed his eating habits, including a 10-day stretch during which he ate nothing but fruits, vegetables and beans. He reported to Pirates camp at 220 pounds, about 25 lighter than at the end of last season.
''I really don't care what the scale says,'' McGehee said. ''I just wanted to get in shape and be strong. It just so happened that I ended up losing weight, so it was good all the way around.''
Notes: Pirates owner Bob Nutting will be in camp to address the team on Saturday. ... Team president Frank Coonelly indicated he will perform some sort of public service with an anti-drunk driving group. Coonelly faces four charges stemming from a Dec. 22 DUI incident in suburban Pittsburgh. ''I've learned lessons and I intend to be supportive of organizations that work to make sure that type of conduct doesn't happen,'' Coonelly said. ''Exactly how that will be done has not been determined yet.'' ... Right-hander Charlie Morton is slated to throw his first round of batting practice on Wednesday. Morton, who is recovering from hip surgery, is about a week behind the other starting pitchers in camp.