Pirates outfielder Bryce Brentz eyes roster spot
BRADENTON, Fla. — As he often does with his remarks, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle had a unique way of describing outfielder Bryce Brentz’s hitting style.
“It’s an aggressive man in the box with bad intentions,” he said.
Brentz, who grew up a linebacker and wrestler in Murfreesboro, Tenn., won’t argue with his manager. After all, he’s been with the Pirates only a month, and he will be fighting to keep his job over the next week.
If the Pirates decide to open the season March 29 in Detroit with 13 pitchers, perhaps two players among Brentz, Jose Osuna and Jordan Luplow will be reassigned, released or traded.
When Brentz is at his best — and he’ll need to be to win a job — baseball is all about, in his words, “controlling the violence.”
“We all want to impact the baseball,” he said. “When I get up there, I want to break that thing into a million pieces. Sometimes, that will get you in trouble because effort level goes up, and then you miss pitches you shouldn’t miss.”
The Pirates acquired Brentz from the Red Sox on Feb. 20 for “cash considerations.” The money will help the Red Sox pay for the five-year, $110 million contract they gave to J.D. Martinez, who also scooped up Brentz’s roster spot.
“It was kind of a surprise,” Brentz said. “All good things must come to an end. We had a good run there. But it’s been a blessing to be with this team.”
For the Pirates, the move was designed to bolster their bench and provide an option if outfielders Corey Dickerson, Starling Marte and/or Gregory Polanco struggle or get hurt.
Brentz, 29, was a supplemental-round draft choice (36th overall) in 2010, but he played only 34 games over the 2014 and ’16 seasons with the Red Sox. In that limited time, he hit one home run, an odd statistic for a player considered to be a power hitter.
But he hit 31 home runs in 120 games in Class AAA Pawtucket last season, which breaks down to about one every series. That’s what caught the Pirates’ attention.
“It’s hard to say 31 home runs in AAA don’t mean anything,” Hurdle said.
Yet, Brentz’s home run bat hasn’t surfaced in spring training, except for one he hit March 8 against the Detroit Tigers.
“We haven’t got him synced up at the plate yet,” Hurdle said. “He’s getting closer.
“Spring training is a tough gauge. We’ve fed him a lot of at-bats, and we’ll continue to give him at-bats and see what he can do with them.”
At least Brentz is seeing the ball better than when he first arrived at LECOM Park.
“Some of it was contacts,” he said, noting his prescription changed before he arrived.
He joked he was “legally blind” for the first three weeks of spring training.
No joke, though, he said, “Everything was just blurry. I couldn’t tell what was what. That was tough to grind through that.”
He’s seeing clearly now, which he hopes will let him see PNC Park next month with a bat in his hand.