Pirates laud incoming veteran SS Barmes

| Sunday, Dec. 18, 2011

Asked by a fan Saturday at PirateFest why he opted to decline Ronny Cedeno's $3 million option and sign Clint Barmes to a two-year, $10.5 million deal, general manager Neal Huntington said Barmes was a more complete player.

Clint Hurdle gave a bolder answer: The manager told fans he was "passionate" about the Pirates making a change at shortstop.

Hurdle likened it to what happens when he and his wife go out to eat. If he asks her at the end of the meal how it was and she says it was OK, they don't return to that restaurant.

"At the end of the year, Ronny was OK," Hurdle said. "I expect more out of my shortstop than Ronny could bring."

Hurdle said he and Cedeno spent many days in his office challenging each other to find ways to improve. Huntington acknowledged Cedeno's strong year defensively and said the Pirates stuck with him as long as they did because they felt he had potential.

Huntington said Barmes is a stable, reliable defender who should hit a few more home runs, have better at-bats and help the Pirates take the next step. He hit .244 with 12 home runs and 39 RBI for the Astros last year; Cedeno, who remains a free agent, hit .249 with two homers and 32 RBI.

Barmes arrived in Pittsburgh on Thursday to take part in the annual event at David L. Lawrence Convention Center and begin meeting the players who, until now, he only knew as opponents.

The 32-year-old, who played for Hurdle with the Rockies, said at first some asked him why he picked Pittsburgh.

"But they must not follow a lot of baseball because, with what the team did last year, it is exciting, and I'm extremely excited to be a part of it," he said. "It's heading in the right direction, so hopefully I can come in and help with the process."

Catcher Michael McKenry crossed paths with Barmes in spring training with the Rockies and said he'll never forget his first impression.

"When I first got to big league camp, he put his arm around me and said, 'Anything you need, I'm here for you,' " he said. "He and (first baseman) Todd Helton kind of took me under their wing a little bit and showed me the way. ... When we signed him, I was absolutely stoked. He's a great person to have in Pittsburgh."

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