ShareThis Page
Pirates

Church adds insurance for Pirates in outfield

| Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2010

BRADENTON, Fla. — By signing free-agent outfielder Ryan Church, the Pirates will get some insurance in case Jeff Clement struggles or Jose Tabata hits a major roadblock.

Church has agreed to a one-year, $1.5 million contract, which will be finalized after he passes a physical. The deal includes up to another $1.32 million in incentives based on plate appearances.

The Pirates want to use Church, 31, as an extra outfielder to spell Garrett Jones in right field. At some point this summer, fast-rising prospect Jose Tabata is expected to make his Pittsburgh debut and take over in right.

Beginning in spring training, Clement will get every opportunity to win the job at first base. However, Clement, acquired last year from Seattle in the Jack Wilson trade, has little experience at the position.

"I've (played catcher) my entire life," said Clement, who is among more than three dozen players at the Pirates' voluntary minicamp, which begins this morning at the Pirate City complex. "I was a little apprehensive at first about first base, but you eventually get comfortable with it. It's a lot easier than catching."

If Clement is not ready to become the everyday first baseman, Jones will play the position. Church could fill the void in right until Tabata is ready.

Church played last season for the New York Mets and Atlanta Braves. A left-handed hitter, Church batted a combined .273 with four homers and 40 RBI.

The Braves non-tendered Church last month, making him a free agent. His checkered health history includes back problems and multiple concussions.

Church's arrival leaves only one open spot on the five-man bench. Backup infielders Bobby Crosby and Ramon Vazquez and catcher Jason Jaramillo are practically guaranteed spots.

That sets up a battle during spring training among Delwyn Young, Brandon Moss and Rule 5 pickup John Raynor.

Young has the versatility to play either second base or the outfield. Moss flopped last season in a bid to win the right field job. Raynor, who has plus speed, must be offered back to the Florida Marlins if the Pirates do not keep him on their active roster.

The Pirates signed three other players yesterday -- right-hander Brian Bass, catcher Luke Carlin and outfielder Brian Myrow -- to minor-league contracts. That gives the team 19 non-roster invitees to spring training.

Bass spent last summer with the Orioles, going 5-3 with a 4.90 ERA in 48 relief outings. He was second among AL relievers in innings pitched.

Carlin split last season between Triple-A Reno and Arizona and also played for Canada in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. He's played in 46 games in the majors for the Diamondbacks and Padres.

Myrow hit a combined .307 with 15 homers and 59 RBI in 110 games for Triple-A Charlotte (White Sox) and Indianapolis. He's played in the majors for the Dodgers and Padres.

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.

click me