Jaso seems like good fit at leadoff

BRADENTON, Fla. – It’s definitely true: The older you become, the faster time seems to go. It hardly seems possible but our winter vacation is almost over.

The end of vacation also means the end of spring training baseball, and it’s been another enjoyable six weeks following the Pittsburgh Pirates here in the Sunshine State.

Although there haven’t been as many wins as losses, the Bucs have had their occasional high moments and spring training never was geared toward winning every game. It’s more about seeing where the team’s needs are and whether the younger guys are ready to fill some holes. Some of those questions remain unanswered.

Despite his lack of power, John Jaso probably will be the club’s first baseman (at least against right-handed pitching) and he could be the leadoff man the Bucs desperately need. Moving Andrew McCutchen to No. 2 in the batting order has brought dividends so far as Cutch has feasted on Grapefruit League pitching, leading the club in average and homers.

With Jung Ho Kang not expected to be ready for some time, recently-acquired David Freese will be the third baseman. Although the ex-Cardinal isn’t the player he once was, Freese is still better than anyone else the Bucs can run out there.

Jordy Mercer is a solid shortstop and Josh Harrison should replace Neil Walker in most offensive and defensive categories, except power. The outfield of Starling Marte, McCutchen and Gregory Polanco is rated highly, but, personally, I think Polanco has some defensive deficiencies. Matt Joyce looks like the fourth outfielder.

The catching is capable with fan-favorite Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart donning the gear.

As usual, pitching holds the key to the Pirates’ success. Francisco Liriano and Gerrit Cole are 1-2 with John Niese (he came in the Walker trade) penciled in at No. 3. The 4-5 spots are up for grabs among Jeff Locke, Ryan Vogelsong and Juan Nicasio, the ex-Dodger who has had a nice camp.

Don’t expect top pitching prospects Tyler Glasnow and/or Jameson Taillon in the majors until at least mid-June.

Tony Watson and Mark Melancon are as good a late-inning duo as there is, but there are questions about the rest of the bullpen. Jared Hughes, providing he’s healthy, and hard-throwing Arquimedes Caminaro should be there, along with Neftali Feliz.

Local woman with O’s

Kristen Hudak, a graduate of Forest Hills High School in Sidman, is the public relations director for the Baltimore Orioles. She worked for ESPN before taking the Orioles’ job two years ago.

Kristen’s dad, Mike Hudak, has been active in District 6 basketball circles for years. Mike and his wife, as well as the parents of Altoona Mirror reporter Kelly Cernetich, took in a recent Pirate-Oriole game at McKechnie.

The brothers Diaz

Einar Diaz, who is in his fourth season as a coach with the Orioles, asked to be remembered to Altoona friend John Prosperi. Einar’s brother, Lino Diaz, lived in Altoona for a couple years and played for the L.S. Fiore AAABA team before turning professional. Einar reports that Lino is now a coach with the Tampa Yankees in the class A Florida State League after previously working for the Indians and White Sox.

Sign here, please

Recent additions to Jean and Joan’s autograph lists: Jeff Francour, Erick Aybar, Nick Swisher and Reid Brignac of the Braves; Chris Davis, Ryan Flaherty and Darren O’Day of the Orioles; David Freese of the Pirates.

Good eating

While visiting Venice, we had a nice lunch at the Burgundy Square Cafe. Also added to our favorites was The Sunset by Gulf Drive Cafe on Bradenton Beach where we were joined by friends Dave and Marcia Dravis and Terry and Molly Goldstein of Hollidaysburg.

Lane, a retired sports editor of the Mirror, writes from Florida in February and March.