Pirates' Barmes swinging for better year

Rob Biertempfel
| Monday, Jan. 7, 2013, 9:36 p.m.

BRADENTON, Fla. — After a miserable 2012 season, Pirates shortstop Clint Barmes knows he will have a lot to prove this year. That's one reason Barmes is among a handful of veteran players who chose to attend the team's minicamp this week at Pirate City.

Barmes, 33, is a 10-year veteran who will make $5.5 million this year. Barring a trade, he is a lock for the Pirates' roster coming out of spring training. Yet, he left his family in Colorado and flew halfway across the country for a week of voluntary workouts.

“Every year I've played this game, I've come in trying to prove something,” Barmes said Monday after taking a round of batting practice amid a steady drizzle on Clemente Field. “That's my mindset. It's never changed, and I don't think it ever will. Every year, you come in a year older. You get to a point in your career where issues may come up, like, ‘Can he still move? Can he still do this? Can he still do that?' That never changes.”

Last year, Barmes batted .229 — the second-lowest full-season average of his career — with eight homers and 45 RBI. His .593 on-base plus slugging percentage was the lowest among National League shortstops with at least 340 plate appearances.

Those low numbers mostly are the result of an awful first half of the season. Before the All-Star break, Barmes hit .204. After the break, he batted .257.

Barmes said his early-season struggles were caused by changes he made to his swing during spring training.

“I was trying to get my legs more involved, which slowed everything down and (put) my timing off,” Barmes said. “It was a grind. I dug myself into a pretty deep hole and had to spend the rest of the year trying to climb out.”

Over the final couple months of last season, Barmes went back to his old swing. He's kept at it this winter, working in the batting cage to teach his muscles to relearn old habits.

“I'm using my hands and trying not to do too much,” Barmes said. “That worked for me in the second half, so that's what I'm going to bring into spring training. I'm expecting to have a better start than I did last year.”

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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