Pirates outfielder Presley is singing different tune this spring

Pirates outfielder Alex Presley drives in a run with a single against the Orioles on Sunday March 10, 2013, in Sarasota, Fla.
Pirates outfielder Alex Presley drives in a run with a single against the Orioles on Sunday March 10, 2013, in Sarasota, Fla.
Photo by Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Rob Biertempfel
| Sunday, March 17, 2013, 11:33 p.m.

BRADENTON, Fla. — This spring training camp feels different than in the past couple of years for Pirates outfielder Alex Presley.

“I have a little more urgency,” Presley said Sunday. “Last year, it was about getting ready for the season. This year, it's about getting ready for the season, and I want to do well to make an impression.

“There should be a little bit of urgency every year at some point. Guys who are going to be everyday (players), they'll have some urgency in the last week or two. I have urgency the entire spring.”

In 2012, Presley was the Opening Day left fielder and leadoff batter. This year, he's not even a lock to break camp with the team.

After a sluggish start, Presley was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis in mid-May. He was recalled in June but went on the disabled list with a concussion July 5.

The makeup of the outfield — perhaps for the long term — evolved dramatically over the course of the final week of July. Left fielder Starling Marte made his debut July 26 and homered on the first pitch he saw. A few days later, right fielder Travis Snider arrived in a trade.

Presley played in just five games in August before being sent back to Indy. He stayed in the minors, even though Marte missed three weeks due to a strained oblique.

For the season, Presley wound up batting .237 with a .279 on-base percentage. Too often, he fell into a trap of thinking he could hit any pitch at any time.

“My problem's always been, I think I can get to everything,” Presley said. “I look for something out over the plate, and a lot of pitchers play into that. But you have to adjust if somebody's pounding it in, take some pitches and force him to go back out. It's a back-and-forth game, but I didn't do a good job with it last year.”

Presley bats from the left side, which helps his chances of getting a bench spot.

Catcher Michael McKenry, outfielder Jose Tabata and first baseman Gaby Sanchez almost certainly will claim three of the five reserve spots. All of them are right-handed batters. Infielders Brandon Inge, Ivan De Jesus, Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer — who are jockeying for one backup job — also all are righties.

With power-hitting left Jerry Sands lurking at Indy, Presley must produce to stay in the majors. Getting on base is more important than merely getting hits. That's what was so encouraging about his performance Saturday against the Minnesota Twins — Presley doubled in his first two at-bats, then worked a pair of walks.

“Pitch selection has been big for me this spring,” Presley said. “Getting those walks, it was key that I wasn't chasing stuff that was just a little out of my zone. For a guy like me, who needs to get on base, walks are a big stat.”

Presley capped his solid day with a strong throw from left to freeze a runner at third base.

“He had a good day,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “It was the kind of game that can be an attitude-adjuster for players. It could be a very good building block for him.”

Sunday, Presley delivered an RBI double that lifted his spring batting average to .306.

“I think I'm a good player. People here think I'm a good player,” Presley said. “It's just a matter of getting everything right. I just want to make an impression and play hard. That's all I can do.”

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

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