Colin Moran embraces opportunity to compete for starting job with Pirates
BRADENTON, Fla. — Josh Bell got a glimpse at the player the Pirates acquired to occupy the opposite corner of the infield, and third baseman Colin Moran made a positive first impression.
“From what I've seen last couple days hitting, it's really fine-tuned, really refined. He knows what he's doing,” Bell said of Moran's swing Monday at Pirate City.
“Defensively, I just took a set of ground balls with him, and it was really fine-tuned, as well. It's going to be fun, a new face over there. Hopefully, us lefties can do some damage with that short porch.”
The Pirates are banking on Moran, a nephew of B.J. Surhoff, to provide pop to their batting order and stability at the hot corner this season.
The 25-year-old former first-round pick of the Miami Marlins was a key component of the Gerrit Cole trade with the Houston Astros last month.
Despite being a Pacific Coast League All-Star last season, Moran's path to the Astros was blocked by Alex Bregman, a 2015 first-round pick who hit 19 home runs and had 71 RBIs in his first full season.
“It's bittersweet,” Moran said, “but you get to a certain point that there's only so much opportunity for certain guys, so I was really excited to have an opportunity to compete for a spot.”
Moran arrived early so he could get into a routine “that I trust and follow diligently,” in hopes of making his transition to the Pirates a smooth one.
He knows there is pressure to earn a starting spot, both to fill the void left by Jung Ho Kang's visa issues and relieve the everyday workload for 34-year-old David Freese, who started 114 games last season.
“I treat it like every other spring,” Moran said. “I come into every spring always trying to do my best, so you don't add any more pressure. You just go out and play and have fun and get to know your teammates.”
Moran spent time in the clubhouse talking to Bell, who had a breakout season in his first year as the starting first baseman.
Although Bell was impressed by Moran's power and willingness to drive balls all over the field, Moran didn't want to go into depth in discussing his changes to his approach because they were so comprehensive.
Moran batted .308 with 18 home runs and 63 RBIs in 79 games at Triple-A Fresno last season, numbers he hopes will translate.
“There's a lot, so I don't know about telling it all in one conversation,” Moran said. “The best way to explain it is just to shorten things up, make it more useful and actions in the swing and make it more powerful at the same time. I just tried to clean up some of the actions that caused inconsistencies but setting myself up for some success.”
Bell is optimistic Moran can take advantage of the short right-field fence at PNC Park and hit more homers.
“If we can put more balls over the fence,” Bell said, “we'll be better off for it.”