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Newcomer Gosselin a valuable fill-in for Pirates

| Monday, March 13, 2017, 8:09 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates shortstop Phil Gosselin singles during the first inning against the Braves Monday, March 13, 2017, at Champion Stadium in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates shortstop Phil Gosselin bats during the first inning against the Braves Monday, March 13, 2017, at Champion Stadium in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates shortstop Phil Gosselin watches his base hit during the second inning against the Braves Monday, March 13, 2017, at Champion Stadium in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

ORLANDO, Fla. — Phil Gosselin terms it as “fun” to come to the ballpark each day and play a different position.

You know what's more fun? Getting hits virtually every day while doing it.

The Pirates' newest acquisition has been having plenty of fun these days.

“He's a valuable guy to have on your team,” manager Clint Hurdle said of Gosselin, who has started at all four infield spots this spring. “He's swung the bat very clean since he's been here. He's had good at-bats, good looks at the plate.”

Gosselin went 3 for 4 against the Braves on Monday, and it easily could have been 4 for 4. His lone out came on a line drive to short in the fourth.

The afternoon raised his average to .400 this spring, and he appears to be a lock to make the Pirates' opening-day roster.

Not bad for a guy who was designated for assignment by the Arizona Diamondbacks — who lost 93 games last season — days before he was expecting to report to spring training last month.

But the Pirates wanted Gosselin enough that they sent Frank Duncan, a 25-year-old who had a 2.33 ERA in 20 starts for Triple-A Indianapolis last season, to Arizona for him. The Pirates also had to clear a 40-man roster spot to make room for Gosselin.

In short, he was coveted as the organization's latest super-utilityman.

“I definitely embrace it,” said Gosselin, who has played in 216 games over parts of four seasons with Atlanta and Arizona.

“It's fun playing different spots and being able to help the team in different ways. If certain guys need a day off or getting double switched into certain positions and stuff, whatever it might be, I enjoy it and it keeps things fresh and new, working on different positions every day.”

So far this spring, Gosselin has started three games each at second base and shortstop, two at third base, another game in which he played five innings at shortstop and even a start at first.

First base?

“He had made mention to us that he played first for the Diamondbacks,” Hurdle said with a wide smile. “I said, ‘You mean the two games that (All-Star Paul) Goldschmidt doesn't play every year? And he goes, ‘Yeah you're right.'

“But he went over there, and he looks comfortable there. He has played there before, and we will get him opportunities at first. But the dependability factor there is he is comfortable moving around. Shortstop would probably be the most challenging with the range and the skillset. But if you can be dependable and put away the outs and balls that are hit to you and go to second, go to third, go to first? A good guy to have.”

First base (six games) was one of five positions Gosselin played last season. He mostly has been a second baseman or third baseman in the pros, though he does have 42 games of professional experience in the outfield. Gosselin mostly played second base and outfield in college at Virginia, where he set the school record for hits in a season with 100.

A fifth-round pick of the Braves in 2010, Gosselin has a .718 OPS over 460 at-bats in the majors.

“He's making himself available for us,” Pirates infield instructor and first-base coach Joey Cora said. “He swings the bat, obviously, and he can run. He showed he can bring playing first base to the table along with second, short and third.

“He's making himself valuable to Clint, to be on the team and to help us win games.”

Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at cadamski@tribweb.com or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.

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