Ciriaco Slowly Using Speed

Pirates shortstop finding his niche





PITTSBURGH—Depending on the point of view, shortstop Pedro Ciriaco is either too slow to develop or too fast to dismiss.

Ciriaco, 25, came to the Pirates in a deadline deal with the Diamondbacks and batted .281/.288/.372 in 121 at-bats for Triple-A Indianapolis. He reached the majors in his eighth professional season when Pittsburgh made him a September callup. He showed enough in his brief time in the Pirates' hands to convince management he could push everyday shortstop Ronny Cedeno as soon as 2011.

Exceptional speed, a good glove and a strong arm define Ciriaco's game, and his tools long ranked among the best in the Diamondbacks system. He will need to hit far better to establish himself as an everyday major leaguer, though. His career line in the minors is .265/.281/.387.

Still, to hear Ciriaco tell it, he experienced quite the revival there under minor league hitting coordinator Gregg Ritchie, who stressed getting his barrel in the correct slot, creating a smooth, consistent load, and getting his head in position to see the ball better. All that led to a better path to the ball, with less effort.

"He helped me so much," Ciriaco said. "It was the best I ever felt at the plate."

That showed in an 8-for-18 finish in Triple-A, as well as a 3-for-6 output with a double and triple in sporadic appearances for the Pirates in September.

But the bottom line for Ciriaco, especially given that he is not likely to develop much power with a spindly 6-foot, 165-pound frame, is that he will need to reach base more often. And that means more walks. He drew just two in 129 plate appearances after the trade.

That is the Pirates' next area of emphasis—"the key," as farm director Kyle Stark called it—in Ciriaco's maturity. To that end, Ciriaco accepted management's invitation to attend 10 days of instructional league, solely for additional work on his approach.

TREASURE TROVE

• Although righthander Vic Black, a supplemental first-round pick in 2009, did not pitch in instructional league because he is still recovering from the shoulder and biceps trouble that cost him most of 2010, he is expected to be ready for spring training.

• Josh Harrison, a 5-foot-8 second baseman who batted .300/.345/.398 for Double-A Altoona, was batting .360 in the Arizona Fall League, riding a 13-for-19 tear that included five doubles, two triples and a home run.