Hard-nosed Pirates catcher McKenry is a lock for the roster
TribLIVE Sports Videos
In a game during the first week of spring training, Pirates catcher Michael McKenry took a foul ball off his wrist. Pitcher Jeff Karstens noticed the large, painful welt when McKenry made a mound visit a couple of innings later.
"I just cracked jokes with him the whole time, trying to get his mind off of it," Karstens said. "He loves being back there and playing hard. If I'd got hit in the hand, I'd probably be like, 'Aw, it's spring training. I'm going to come out of the game.' But he stayed (in the game) and worked with me, and I can't say enough about that."
McKenry's grit and stubborn dedication to the game and especially to his pitchers is why he quickly morphed from being merely a guy acquired out of desperation last year to a player who was a shoo-in to stick on the roster this spring.
It's the first time in McKenry's career that he opened the season in the big leagues.
"It feels so good," McKenry said, "because I had to conquer some things to get here."
A year ago, McKenry was traded from Colorado to Boston at the end of spring training. Neither club offered him much chance to play in the majors. McKenry's situation changed dramatically when the catcher-depleted Pirates acquired him in mid-June.
"Coming here was the best thing that could've happened to me," McKenry said.
The Pirates got McKenry, 27, from the Red Sox for cash considerations one of those transactions that's reported in agate type instead of 60-point headlines. He caught in 58 games, the most among the eight catchers the team used last year.
"It was a good opportunity to learn," McKenry said. "I just kind of kept my mouth shut and my ears open as much as possible."
A string of injuries had forced the Pirates into the baseball equivalent of open mic night behind the plate. Eric Fryer wasn't ready for the majors. Wyatt Toregas was ragged, and Dusty Brown was even worse.
When McKenry arrived, he quickly built a strong rapport with practically every pitcher on the staff.
"It sounds crazy, but it happened right away," McKenry said. "In my first game, I caught Paul (Maholm), and he was very responsive to me, even with me being a younger guy. He took some feedback from me immediately and, with him being a veteran, I listened to him immediately. A lot of those guys I got to know really well, really fast."
That's important, because he figures to start 70 to 80 games this season as Rod Barajas' backup. Barajas has played in more than 104 games just once in the past seven seasons.
"He really cares about each guy who goes out there (to pitch)," Karstens said. "It's fun to watch. To have Michael step in and be the guy he was last year was huge for our staff. That's going to carry over. He's not cocky or overconfident. He just quietly goes about his business."
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pirates notebook: Is it time for Kang to head to Indy?
- Marte jump-starts Pirates in win over Brewers
- Pirates minor league report: Rapid advancement to test Tucker
- Biertempfel: Low turnover helps keep Pirates’ chemistry intact
- Gameday: Pirates vs. Brewers, April 19, 2015
- Pirates pitchers have margin for error, in mphs, and they need it
- Sanchez odd man out with Pirates recalling Stewart
- Marte’s bat, Worley’s arm show improvement in Pirates win
- Thrill of home opener at PNC Park rocks Pittsburgh
- Pirates’ Melancon isn’t worried about drop in velocity
- Fans of Pirates embrace PNC Park home opener, hope for great season