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Thread: Pirates Spring Training: The education of Jeff Clement

      
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    Default Pirates Spring Training: The education of Jeff Clement

    Pirates Spring Training: The education of Jeff Clement
    Sunday, February 28, 2010
    By Chuck Finder, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
    Peter Diana/Post-GazettePirates first baseman Jeff ClementBRADENTON, Fla. -- Jeff Clement hastily slipped on his spikes, snatched his bat and glove, and whisked out the back door. The clock above the clubhouse exit showed 8:59:30. And ticking.

    Don't want to be late for First Base College.

    Class convenes most every morning on Pirate City's small, fenced-in infield. Some start as early as 8:15. They last at least a half-hour. They are taught by new infield coach Carlos Garcia with alternating assistant professors, manager John Russell or minor league infield coordinator Steve Lombardozzi.

    The individualized course work, which commenced in Class AAA Indianapolis before moving to this Pirates branch campus, comes with midterms ahead. Clement in August made one error in 189 chances -- a .995 fielding percentage -- in 22 games at first base in Indianapolis. But the majors are graduate-level stuff. So it is that, with the exhibition-season start this week, a converted catcher begins the test of a big league bag.


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Wednesday
    • Game: at New York Yankees in MLB exhibition opener.

    • Time: 1:05 p.m.

    • TV: MLB Network.

    Tuesday
    • Game: vs. State College of Florida/Manatee-Sarasota.

    • Time: 12:05 p.m.

    • Where: Bradenton, Fla.

    ON THE WEB: Keep tabs on the Pirates 24 hours a day with PBC Blog at www.post-gazette.com.


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    He feels no test anxiety.

    "Absolutely," said Clement, 26. "Every day I feel better. Every day I feel more and more comfortable over there. It's the same as the end of last year, after I got traded over [from Seattle] and played every day at Indy. Repetitions make you feel more comfortable and confident, and that's how I'm feeling right now.

    "I'm confident that I can be a solid defensive first baseman."

    "Doing the drills and the early work, he's building foundations and getting more solid," Garcia added. "His rhythm is a work in progress. But I think he'll be able to do that. He's putting a lot into it."

    Clement was a catcher-pitcher-third baseman in Marshalltown, Iowa, where he powered the local team to the Little League World Series and his high school team to a state title. He was a catcher at the University of Southern California, where he won the Johnny Bench Award. In 2005, he was drafted third overall right after Arizona's Justin Upton and Kansas City's Alex Gordon, and right before Washington's Ryan Zimmerman, Milwaukee's Ryan Braun, Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki and one Andrew McCutchen.

    Surgery on two parts of his left-knee meniscus in September 2008 -- plus a little too much catching in spring training and upon his April 2009 return to Class AAA Tacoma -- caused him to cease squatting after 16 Rainiers games. He became, in order, a first base trainee, a designated hitter and part of the return package in the Jack Wilson-Ian Snell trade. The Pirates were determined to try to make a stand-up guy of him and get into the Indianapolis lineup a power bat that hit 55 homers in 292 Class AAA games the past three years and seven in 75 Mariners games.

    In 2010, what with first baseman Garrett Jones able to play right field, and a tangle of possibilities there in Ryan Church and Brandon Moss plus the coming attraction of Jose Tabata, they continue to give Clement at first base the old college try. April 5 isn't the final exam, though.

    "We're not looking to make up ground [by a certain date]," Russell cautioned. "So far, he's doing very well. He's picking up things and he's doing the things we need him to do. There are no expectations what he needs to do in the next week." Or the next month.

    Such an education isn't easy. Take the word of catcher Ryan Doumit, whom the previous Pirates management tried to teach first base: "There's a lot more that it entails. It's not as easy as it looks. Especially at a big league level."

    This switch started slowly with Tacoma, in six games with one error, mostly a move made to offset Clement's post-surgical knee swelling and ache.

    "It was kind of a weird situation; he was getting switched to the first bag," said Chris Jakubauskas, who pitched to him last spring and joins him on the Pirates' 40-man roster. "I played first base in college. It's one of those things, just knock the ball down, you got time over there. Obviously, he has a big stick."

    Clement's joint feels fine thanks to his new infield home. A stand-up position will do that for you.

    "The knee has been really good. It's not even close to the same wear and tear," he said. "It's way easier on me than squatting for nine innings."

    Clement regularly gets private morning pointers and grounders from Garcia and staff, a faculty-to-student ratio of two to one. In regular infield drills earlier this week, Garcia, while rapping balls to second base, saw one particular play and offered an "attaboy, Jeffrey" to Clement, who then proceeded to drop two of his next three grounders. Russell has sidled up alongside him in other drills at first.

    "When I got traded, it was every day doing early work, playing every day. It definitely wasn't, 'Grab your glove.' It was, 'Get better,'" Clement said. "I was pleasantly surprised with how fast I got comfortable over there in the course of the month. I felt much better over there by the end of the month than what I did when I first started.

    "Right now, there are no games. As long as I feel healthy, I'm going to do as much as I possibly can and learn as much as I possibly can. So once games start, and definitely by the end of the spring, I'll feel 100 percent ready to go."

    A grade?

    "So far, from 1 to 10, I'd give him a 7 or a 6," Garcia said. "I mean, he's catching the ball. His footwork around the bag is getting better and better. Now it's going to be playing time."

    Another test


    Read more: http://pittsburghpost-gazette.com/pg...#ixzz0gqWcqrf9
    Are these morons getting dumber or just louder-Mayor Quimby

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    Default Re: Pirates Spring Training: The education of Jeff Clement

    A positive article on Clement....hmm how can that be Smizik says he stinks!

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    Default Re: Pirates Spring Training: The education of Jeff Clement

    Quote Originally Posted by PittFaninVa View Post
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    A positive article on Clement....hmm how can that be Smizik says he stinks!
    I wouldn't hold my breathe waiting for Smizik to acknowledge very many, if any, positive Pirate stories. Negativity works for him.

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    Default Re: Pirates Spring Training: The education of Jeff Clement

    Quote Originally Posted by CPA17 View Post
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    I wouldn't hold my breathe waiting for Smizik to acknowledge very many, if any, positive Pirate stories. Negativity works for him.
    This was written by a person in Smizik's blog....spot on.



    Just promise me that when the Pirates finally turn it around, you won't write about how great it is
    Are these morons getting dumber or just louder-Mayor Quimby

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    Default Re: Pirates Spring Training: The education of Jeff Clement

    Clement is the key to this season imo. If he can grab the 1B job and handle it, plus swing a good bat, the offense has a good chance of being very productive.
    It would be really nice if everyone can play where the Pirates would like them to be able to play. If so, this line-up is going to surprise people.
    Thank you for your time,
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    Default Re: Pirates Spring Training: The education of Jeff Clement

    Jeff Clement = Fantasy Sleeper

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    Default Re: Pirates Spring Training: The education of Jeff Clement

    Quote Originally Posted by Daskid View Post
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    Jeff Clement = Fantasy Sleeper
    Seems we have a lot of those...

    Clement, LaRoche, Milledge... and potentially Cedeno

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    Default Re: Pirates Spring Training: The education of Jeff Clement

    I dont see Clement handling 1st I hope I am wrong but I doubt it. HE is strictly a Dh IMO which is ok cause Jones is a natural 1st baseman and Moss,Tabata,Church can cover Rf

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    Default Re: Pirates Spring Training: The education of Jeff Clement

    Quote Originally Posted by Hittman View Post
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    I dont see Clement handling 1st I hope I am wrong but I doubt it. HE is strictly a Dh IMO which is ok cause Jones is a natural 1st baseman and [HIGH-LIGHT]Moss[/HIGH-LIGHT],Tabata,Church can cover Rf
    Moss will not be in Pittsburgh on April 5th.

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    Default Re: Pirates Spring Training: The education of Jeff Clement

    Quote Originally Posted by irahuss View Post
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    Seems we have a lot of those...

    Clement, LaRoche, Milledge... and potentially Cedeno
    Yeah, but Clement is the only one who qualifies at Catcher.

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    Default Re: Pirates Spring Training: The education of Jeff Clement

    Quote Originally Posted by Hittman View Post
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    I dont see Clement handling 1st I hope I am wrong but I doubt it. HE is strictly a Dh IMO which is ok cause Jones is a natural 1st baseman and Moss,Tabata,Church can cover Rf
    IMO playing 1st is easier than 3rd, 2nd and SS. You need 2 things to play 1st ..

    1. Quickness
    2. Glove

    Clement has a glove. Everyone has said he has really soft hands. Unlike someone like PEarce who we saw at 1st miss some balls badly thrown due to being short, Clement has a good wing span.

    As a catcher, Clement "SHOULD" be able to dig balls. that's a huge aspect fo playing 1st. IMO that's what made LaRoche good as a 1B. Being a catcher he should be able to do that.

    The quickness I don't know. As a catcher he has to react to an extent to wild pitches and curves, missed communication/calls ... so to me the question with Clement defensively is reacting to and fielding grounders. the nice thing about playing 1B compared to 3B is that you see less line drives and balls hit to you in general.

    I think that in general Clement should be alright defensively actually.

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    Default Re: Pirates Spring Training: The education of Jeff Clement

    I think he'll be OK. He's a career .991 fielder at 1B in the minors, including .995 with just 1 error in 189 chances at Indy last year. Not a great metric or sample size, but at least shows he's not an obvious trainwreck either.

    He's not winning any gold gloves, but I'd say the odds are that he'll be able to hold the position down well enough to go north with the club. The bigger question will be if he can hit well enough after April 5 to keep the job.

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    Default Re: Pirates Spring Training: The education of Jeff Clement

    I think people are making too much out of Clement’s supposed problems at 1st. 1st is the easiest infield position to play….by far. All he has do is be average coming out of ST. Clement should be able to catch everything hit or thrown at him because he‘s a good athlete and his catchers hands should also help. His range might be a problem and his instincts might not be there initially but that should improve the longer he plays the position .

    I believe Clement’s main job in ST and during the early part of the season is to prove he can hit ML pitching…if he can do that his defensive abilities will be a secondary issue…by a wide margin.

    In the end if Clement can rake he’d have to be a butcher at 1st to be a liability.

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