WBC offering young Bucs chance to shine
By Jim Lane
For the Mirror
BRADENTON, Fla. — The World Baseball Classic is giving a lot of young players plenty of opportunities in major-league camps this spring training. Former Curve second baseman Erich Weiss is one of them.
With Josh Harrison and Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco playing in the WBC and away from the Pirates camp, names like Adam Frazier, Danny Ortiz and Austin Meadows are often in the Bucs’ starting lineup.
That’s giving hopefuls like Weiss more chances with the big club as well.
“It’s been wonderful being around these older guys and getting exposure against other big league guys,” Weiss was saying recently at LECOM Park. “I’ve learned a lot.”
Like most prospects, Weiss has been used everywhere — first, second, short, third. He was the DH against the Orioles on Friday and crushed a long homer in an 8-7 loss.
“In camp, I try to watch everybody — particularly the guys who play second and short,” Weiss said. “I also watch the coaches a lot. (Hitting coach) Jeff Branson has been very helpful in teaching me what it takes to be a major-league hitter.”
A University of Texas product, Weiss was an 11th-round draft pick of the Pirates in 2013 and played for the Curve in 2015 and 2016.
“Altoona was awesome,” he said. “I liked it a lot.
“I was there a little over a month in 2015 and then all of 2016,” he noted. “They were two of the best teams I’ve been on in pro ball. Managers (Tom) Prince and (Joey) Cora — both had lots of experience in the big leagues and I was able to learn off both of them.
“It was very valuable for me to play under them,” Weiss continued. “Joey, being a former second baseman, showed me a lot about the double play and different forms of that.”
Going into Friday’s game against the Orioles, Weiss had five hits in his last seven at-bats and had reached base safely in six of his last 10 big-league games.
His best game with the Curve came Aug. 2 of last summer when he drove in seven runs in a 11-5 win at New Hampshire.
“It was just one of those days where I was locked in,” said the lefty-swinging Weiss, who finished with a .276 batting average and 65 RBIs in 127 games.
Weiss, who probably will open the season with Class AAA Indianapolis, said his goal is to improve on last year.
“I just want to get better every day, and let things fall where they may,” he added.
Kevin Newman, who is expected to start the season as the Curve shortstop, played in 11 games before being sent out to minor-league camp. He batted .389 with seven hits in 18 at-bats. He scored seven runs and drove in two.
Former Curve first baseman Jose Osuna has been impressive with a .440 average (11-for-25) in his first 11 games. Osuna has a team-best four homers and eight RBIs. Another ex-Curve standout Adam Frazier was 12-for-26 (.462) with seven RBIs in 10 games.
Barrett Barnes, Curve left fielder a year ago, was only .174 (4-for-23) in 12 games. Eric Wood, Altoona’s third baseman in 2016, was 3-for-15 (.200) in seven games, and veteran SS Jordy Mercer was just 4-for-18 (.222) in seven games.
Sign here, please
Recent autographs for Jean included Eduardo Escobar of the Twins, Caleb Joseph, Pedro Alvarez, Ubaldo Jimenez, Roberto Andino and Johnny Giavotello of the Orioles.
Faces in the crowd
Longtime PIAA official Mike Hudak, whose daughter works in the Orioles’ PR department; Terry and Molly Goldstein, Curve booster club president John Prosperi, and 40 fans on Duane Bordell’s bus trip.
After the game
Recent eating stops included Bonefish Grille, Carrabba’s, Olive Garden, Demetrio’s and Applebees.
Until next week…
Lane, a retired sports editor of the Mirror, writes from Florida in February and March.