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Pirates, Raynor working to tweak swing

SAN FRANCISCO -- Even though John Raynor ended spring training stuck in a deep batting funk, he had a good feeling the Pirates would keep him on their 25-man roster.

Raynor had just one hit in his final 21 at-bats. His slump began about the time manager John Russell and hitting coach Don Long decided to tweak Raynor's mechanics by toning down his leg kick.

Raynor figured he would struggle for a while with the new batting style, but knew the change also meant the Pirates liked his potential.

"When they told me (about the change), it gave me confidence that they saw something in me," Raynor said. "They want the best for me and for this team."

A Rule 5 pick, Raynor must remain on the roster all season or be offered back to the Florida Marlins for $25,000. The Pirates like Raynor's outfield skills and speed.

"He's capable of playing major league-caliber defense now," general manager Neal Huntington said. "There's still some growth he has to do with his bat."

Raynor never used a leg kick until after he was drafted by the Marlins in 2006. He's a career .299 hitter in three-plus seasons in the minors.

"I've had a lot of success with the leg kick, but I'm with them 100 percent on toning it down a little bit," Raynor said.

Raynor's role with the Pirates this season will be as a pinch runner, fifth outfielder and rare pinch hitter. That's when a high leg kick could cause trouble.

"Coming off the bench, timing is one of your biggest enemies," Russell said. "If you've got a lot of movement in your swing, it's going to add to that.

"I'm not against leg kicks; actually, I used to teach them a lot. It's a way to get a guy to use his lower half a little quicker and be a little more efficient. But it will get a little too big most times, which is what his did."

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