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Rookie Bautista impresses Tracy in camp


Published: Tue, March 7, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.


The third baseman is seizing his opportunity to impress his boss.
BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) -- Jose Bautista has little chance to crack the Pittsburgh Pirates' lineup out of spring training, but he does have a chance to impress. He seems to be seizing it, too.
When Pittsburgh manager Jim Tracy was asked if any player of the 62 in camp had surprised him, he singled out Bautista.
"He's been very impressive," Tracy said. "He's really shown himself well."
Going into Pittsburgh's game Monday against the Minnesota Twins, Bautista was 2-for-9 at the plate, but he has made his greatest impression at third base by turning three excellent plays.
Perhaps the most impressive part of Bautista's spring is that it got off to a slow start. His left wrist was slightly fractured late in his winter ball season in the Dominican Republic, and his activities were limited until last week.
Strong in minors
Bautista, 25, split last season between Class AA Altoona and Class AAA Indianapolis -- all but 13 of his 130 games with Altoona -- and batted a combined .280 with 24 home runs, 30 doubles and 94 RBIs.
Pittsburgh called him up in September, and he was named their minor-league player of the year.
The main issue for Bautista, according to management, is that he essentially lost a season of his development in 2004, when he bounced to three major league teams as a Rule 5 draft pick while getting only 88 at-bats. He originally was Pittsburgh property, then was reclaimed late in that season.
"Jose Bautista needs at-bats," said Brian Graham, the Pirates' director of player development. "He's shown he has that power, that he can hit at Class AA, which was exactly the right level for him last year. If he does the same thing in Indianapolis this year, then he's earned the chance to be the everyday third baseman in Pittsburgh."
Not discouraged
For the time being, that's unrealistic. The Pirates signed Joe Randa out of free agency to a one-year, $4 million deal, and barring injury, he will be the everyday man at third base. Moreover, there does not appear to be room on the bench because management wants versatility for the one opening that remains. Bautista has played some outfield but can play only third in the infield.
Bautista, however, doesn't sound discouraged.
"All I can do is my best," he said. "If I do that, I'll be there someday."
Notes
Starter Kip Wells was scheduled to have surgery Monday in St. Louis to correct a blocked artery in his right armpit. It wasn't clear when results would be made public. Reliever Roberto Hernandez said he has a sore right shoulder. He pitched on the side Sunday and is scheduled to do so today. ... Shortstop Jack Wilson said he could play his first exhibition Wednesday or Thursday. He had a wisdom tooth pulled last week, and the left side of his face still is swollen. ...Chris Duffy was limited to designated hitting in the Pirates' first four exhibitions because of a stiff left shoulder, but was back in center field Monday.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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