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Pirates

Sanders trying to keep Pirates upbeat

| Tuesday, May 13, 2003

One thing Pirates first baseman Randall Simon has noticed about Reggie Sanders so far this season is the way he's gone about blending in with his new team.

"He talks with everybody and treats everybody with the same respect," Simon said. "That's awesome from a guy like that, someone coming in who doesn't know anybody but still wants to get to know everybody."

It's a routine that Sanders has grown all-too familiar with. The Pirates are the outfielder's sixth team in six seasons, a pattern he hopes doesn't continue.

"I would love to have a place to call home, of course," Sanders said. "But it is what it is."

Sanders signed with the Pirates as a free agent in February after playing the 2002 season with San Francisco. Since spending the first eight years of his career with Cincinnati (1991-98), Sanders has been with San Diego (1999), Atlanta (2000), Arizona (2001), the Giants and Pirates.

"Well, I don't think there's anything wrong with me," Sanders said, laughing. "It seems like everything is about timing, and the timing just hasn't been there at all. A couple of places I've been, I've thought that it would be home for me. Of course, it didn't turn out that way. From there, it's just been moving, moving, moving."

But that moving has given Sanders, 35, the chance to play in the postseason the past three years. The Braves lost in the division series, and the Diamondbacks and Giants each advanced to the World Series, with the Diamondbacks beating the Yankees in seven games. Sanders was also played on the 1995 Cincinnati team that advanced to the NLCS.

In all, Sanders has played in nine postseason series since the Pirates last appeared in the postseason in 1992.

"The most important thing he brings to the clubhouse is the winning," Simon said. "That's something that is the best thing to have, somebody who knows how to win. With all the experience he has, the beautiful thing is that he's not scared about sharing it."

That experience has been needed lately. The Pirates' 9-4 loss to Houston on Monday night was their ninth in ten games. The Pirates (15-23) are currently in fifth place in the NL Central, 6 1/2 games behind first-place Chicago, heading into tonight's game against Houston (20-18) at 7:05 at PNC Park.

But Sanders points out that the Braves (six losses in seven games), Diamondbacks (eight of 10) and Giants (nine of 12) each went through similar stretches on their way to postseason appearances, a small example to show that better things might be ahead for the Pirates.

"It's not how you start, it's how you finish, and I want to show the younger players that," Sanders said. "What sticks out in my mind the most is the dedication part of it. With what we're going through right now, the losing streak, everyone needs to stay upbeat, as far as knowing we'll come out of it.

"It'd be different if we were 11, 12 games out. There are still a lot of things we can look forward to."

On the field, Sanders is on track to nearly duplicate his 2002 season, where he hit .250 with 23 homers and 85 RBI for the Giants. Since hitting .444 with four homers and 11 RBI in the season's first week -- stats which earned him NL player of the week honors -- Sanders has cooled off and is hitting .243 with six homers and 18 RBI heading into tonight's game.

Sanders signed a one-year contract with the Pirates, meaning he could play for yet another team next season. Simon, who played in Atlanta the same time as Sanders, hopes he stays around.

"He's a gentleman. He's one of the best guys," Simon said. "We've been together before, and I'm just so happy to have him here. The type of person he is, he's great."

And Sanders wouldn't mind finally finding a home in Pittsburgh.

"If it works out, great," he said. "That would be awesome, but time will tell."

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