Pirates notebook: Clemente fan DeJesus excited to join team

Rob Biertempfel
| Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

BRADENTON, Fla. — Only four months after being traded from the Los Angeles Dodgers to the Boston Red Sox, infielder Ivan De Jesus Jr. had to switch teams again. But he was happy when he found out his new team is the Pirates.

“I'm really excited to be here, wearing the colors yellow and black, because one of my heroes is Roberto Clemente,” DeJesus said Monday. “Being Puerto Rican, like Roberto, I am very proud to be part of this family.”

In late December, De Jesus, 25, was part of the six-player deal that sent closer Joel Hanrahan to the Red Sox. De Jesus grew up in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, which is about 10 miles from Clemente's hometown of Carolina. Clemente was killed in a plane crash on New Year's Eve 1972.

“He's still a huge guy in Puerto Rico,” De Jesus said. “Especially the past two weeks, his name was always in the newspaper because it's (the 40th anniversary) of his accident.”

The past four years, De Jesus played winter ball in Puerto Rico. This year, playing for Mantai, De Jesus hit .364 and won the league batting title. However, he and his teammates claimed the team was behind in its payroll payments and refused to play in the final game. That got them season-ending suspensions.

With his winter season over, De Jesus chose to attend the voluntary minicamp at Pirate City.

“I'm just living the dream right now,” De Jesus said. “I'm excited to be with the Pirates and can't wait to get started in spring training.”

• RHP Charlie Morton has been rehabbing at Pirate City after having Tommy John surgery last summer. He's throwing long-toss — a progression from 60 to 90 to 120 feet, 75 total throws per day — and last week started throwing on back-to-back days. Morton said he is on track to start throwing off the mound in late January or early February, and he expects to rejoin the Pirates this summer, probably about midway through the season. “Absolutely. One-hundred percent yes,” Morton said.

• Thirty-six players are expected to work out this week at the voluntary minicamp. Manager Clint Hurdle and his coaching staff also are on hand. Players work out in the batting cages and on the fields from 9 a.m. to noon. Monday, the players had a golf outing in the afternoon and gathered at night to watch the Alabama-Notre Dame BCS title game. Players also can attend a fishing outing Tuesday and a college basketball game Wednesday.

• RHP Rick van den Hurk, released over the weekend, will play this year for the Samsung Lions in Korea. Van den Hurk's departure opened a 40-man roster spot, which presumably will be filled by LHP Francisco Liriano. The Pirates and Liriano have agreed to a two-year contract, but it won't be official until he passes a physical.

• Of the team's four arbitration-eligible players — Gaby Sanchez, Neil Walker, James McDonald and Garrett Jones — only Sanchez is at minicamp. Teams and players will exchange salary figures Jan. 18. Arbitration hearings will be held throughout February, though contract agreements may be reached anytime before the hearings.

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