ATLANTA -- Clint Hurdle was a No. 1 Draft choice at 17, and he made the cover of Sports Illustrated before he made the Major Leagues. But he conceded none of that put him in the same prodigy league as Bryce Harper."There was only one cover then," Hurdle said of 1977, when a month past his 20th birthday, he debuted with the Kansas City Royals. "[Harper's] been on multiple covers. He's got the media attention I had times a bazillion." Hurdle went on to spend 10 seasons in the Majors, playing for the Royals, Reds, Mets and Cardinals. He had a .259 career batting average, with 32 homers and 193 RBIs.
Harper, virtually an omnipresent baseball phenomenon since his grade-school days, was making his big league debut with the Nationals later Saturday night in Los Angeles."My hope for him," Hurdle said, "is that he can find that comfort zone and just goes out and plays the game." Pirates catcher Rod Barajas, with the Dodgers the last two seasons, could well imagine the scene in Chavez Ravine, with Stephen Strasburg on the mound and Harper in the outfield -- Washington's overall No. 1 picks in the First-Year Player Drafts of 2009-10. They were opposing Los Angeles right-hander Chad Billingsley. "Who pitched for the Dodgers [Friday] night?" Barajas asked. "The lefty?" He was told, yes, it had been Clayton Kershaw. "That explains why they didn't call up the kid [Friday] night, why they waited for Saturday," said Barajas, who caught Kershaw most of his Cy Young Award season of 2011.
Barajas takes pride in Pirates' staff's showing
ATLANTA -- When Rod Barajas wants to brighten his mood, all the Pittsburgh catcher has to do is look away from his batting average and toward the Pirates pitchers' ERA.The 36-year-old's contributions to the Pirates' offensive woes certainly deserve to be viewed through the prism of his contributions to the excellent staff-wide performance throughout a season now more than three weeks old. "Everybody's been doing a great job, every single time giving us a chance to win the game. That's what's been really impressive," said Barajas. "It's easy to be down on ourselves, because we're not swinging the bat. But for me, it's a lot easier when we're pitching well but not hitting. I wouldn't want it the other way around." Spoken like a true catcher. Entering Saturday's game against the Braves, Michael McKenry has gotten even better results out of pitchers, whose collective ERA is lower with him behind the plate (2.21) than it is with Barajas (3.05), although both numbers are good. McKenry has worked half as many innings, and also had prior familiarity with most of the pitchers. One of the more impressive aspects of Barajas' influence is how quickly he has clicked with a staff of strangers. Other than A.J. Burnett, whom he caught years ago in Toronto, Barajas hadn't known any of these arms before Spring Training. "I've done this a few times," said Barajas, for whom the Pirates are his seventh Major League team, "and I've often said it takes all of Spring Training to get to know these guys. But Spring Training should be enough. "Talking to them, just spending time with them, is the big thing, going over what they like to do and what they're comfortable doing. Catching them in bullpens and games, you get a pretty good understanding of what they like to do. By the time the season starts, you should be on the same page."
Oh deer: Guthrie injury stirs Barmes' memories
ATLANTA -- Clint Barmes could only frown, partly with amusement and partly with disbelief. His unfortunate brush with injury infamy is being linked across a seven-year gap with Jeremy Guthrie, the Colorado pitcher who went on the disabled list after jamming his right shoulder falling off a bike.Stories on Guthrie's fall have dredged up another freak injury in Rockies annals -- Barmes' trip early in June 2005 while carrying deer meat up a staircase, in which he suffered a fractured collarbone. "Hard to believe that's still being brought up," said Barmes, who hadn't heard of Guthrie's mishap. "I'm surprised nobody's been texting me about it. I hate to hear that about Guthrie ... but it's pretty hard to beat falling down while carrying deer meat." Other than perhaps the details, there was nothing funny about Barmes' accident. Either then -- he was hitting .329 at the time, as possibly the frontrunner for National League Rookie of the Year honors, but ended up at .289 after hitting .216 upon his return for the final month of the season. Or since -- the Pirates shortstop hasn't yet been able to return to that level.
The Pirates finally were accorded their first intentional walk of the season. Getting the third-inning free pass, naturally, was .133-hitting Rod Barajas -- who was batting ahead of pitcher Erik Bedard. Barajas then also got No. 2, in the fifth. The Bucs had been the only Major League team yet to get an intentional pass. Three innings before his game-ending circus catch, Jose Tabata had allowed Tyler Pastornicky's sixth-inning single by him for a two-base error, ending the Pirates' errorless streak at 58 2/3 innings. Erik Bedard's second-inning sacrifice bunt was the second of his career, the first coming on May 20, 2007, in an Interleague game between his Orioles and the Nationals. Never mind being 6-0 when scoring at least four runs; the Pirates are 9-2 when scoring more than one run. The Braves' lineup included four left-handed batters, whom Bedard had held to 1-for-13 entering the game. Not surprisingly, Michael Bourn, Freddie Freeman, Jason Heyward and Juan Francisco combined to go 1-for-10 (an infield single by Bourn) with five strikeouts against Bedard.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.