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Pirates notebook: Osuna continues to make positive impression

| Monday, March 20, 2017, 9:00 a.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates right fielder Jose Osuna high-fives David Freese after hitting a two-run homer against the Rays Monday, March 20, 2017, at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Fla.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Jameson Taillon delivers during the first inning against the Rays Monday, March 20, 2017, at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Fla.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer is greeted in the dugout by manager Clint Hurdle after hitting a two-run homer against the Rays Monday, March 20, 2017, at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Fla.

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — Jose Osuna, who hit his team-leading fifth home run Monday, has caught the attention of Pirates management this spring.

As a result, manager Clint Hurdle faces a difficult choice as he puts together the opening day roster.

“You look at the guys we're moving all over the field — we're moving (Alen) Hanson, Osuna, (Phil) Gosselin, (Adam) Frazier — and all of them are performing well,” manager Clint Hurdle said.

Osuna drove in three runs in the 5-4 victory Monday against the Tampa Bay Rays. He hit a two-run homer in the fourth inning and an RBI ground out to break a 4-4 tie in the eighth.

Osuna is batting .417 and has hit safely in 14 of his 15 games this spring. He leads the team in homers (five) and RBIs (14).

“He's got a really good swing,” said shortstop Jordy Mercer, who also hit a two-run homer off Rays lefty Blake Snell. “It's not just a spring training swing where you see guys get hot. You can tell it's a pretty legit swing.”

Although his best position is first base, Osuna also can play third and in the outfield. Hurdle like's Osuna mature approach at the plate and ability to stay poised.

“The box (offense) is where I believe he's going to be an impactful player,” Hurdle said.

Splitting last season between Triple-A Indianapolis and Double-A Altoona, Osuna hit a combined .279 with 13 home runs and a .787 OPS. The Pirates put him on the 40-man roster this past offseason.

“I got a lot of calls, ‘He's on the 40-man? Who is this guy?' ” Hurdle said. “Obviously, they hadn't been paying attention. He's been a developing player.”

Taillon hangs tough

Jameson was not fazed by either traffic on the bases or a ground ball that hit off his knee. The right-hander tossed 4 1⁄3 innings, gave up two runs on four hits and two walks and struck out four.

“Today, he was consistently inconsistent,” Hurdle said. “I think he went from Plan A to Plan B to Plan C. He still rolled up his sleeves and got outs.”

In the third inning, Jesus Sucre's bouncer caromed off Taillon's kneecap.

“It wasn't hit very hard,” Taillon said. “I whiffed at the attempt (to field it) and kind of kicked it over to first (base). A nice ricochet.”

Roster moves

Right-handed reliever Pat Light was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis. Righties Casey Sadler and Angel Sanchez and left-hander Jared Lakind were reassigned to minor league camp.

Sadler is coming back from Tommy John surgery. He made one appearance this spring on March 12 against the Minnesota Twins, allowing one hit and getting a strikeout in one inning.

Sanchez, another TJ surgery recovery project, pitched in an exhibition against the Dominican Republic and also in a B game against the Baltimore Orioles. Lakind pitched with Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic and in four Grapefruit League games (2.08 ERA in 4 1⁄3 innings pitched). Light made five outings (3.86 ERA in 4 2⁄3 innings pitched).

There are 47 players remaining in big league camp, including 13 nonroster players.

More netting

The netting behind the plate at PNC Park will be extended down both baselines. The nets will be the same height as before, but will reach the end of each dugout.

According to the team, this alteration was not mandated by MLB because PNC Park already met fan-safety requirements.

Coonelly to speak

Team president Frank Coonelly will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Business Administration and be the commencement speaker May 6 at La Roche College.

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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