Bucs Hope Cedeno Blossoms At Short

After veteran Jack Wilson was dealt to the Seattle Mariners as part of a seven-player trade, newcomer Ronny Cedeno was thrust into the starter role at shortstop.

The Pirates were attracted to Cedeno's age (he turned 27 last month) and affordability (he avoided arbitration this year by accepting a $1.125 million contract). Cedeno also offered possible power potential, even though he has hit just 23 homers in four-plus seasons in the majors.

"They think I'm a strong enough guy with some pop in my bat," Cedeno said. "But I don't want to think too much about hitting homers."

In 46 games with the Bucs last season, Cedeno surpassed his career averages virtually across the board -- .258 batting average, five home runs and 21 RBI in 155 at-bats). Cedeno is been known to be wildly erratic at times, which partly explains why he has been a regular in only one of his five seasons in the big leagues.

"Sometimes, when I get (upset), things start going around in my mind, and I lose focus on the game," Cedeno admitted. "That's what I'm working on. I get (upset) when I have a bad at-bat. It's a long season, and you have to make adjustments. If I can do that, I'll be OK.

"I'm a hit-and-run guy, a doubles guy. I've got a little pop, but I don't want to be at home plate thinking, 'I've got to hit 30 homers.' I'm not that guy. I'd trade homers for 30 doubles. If I can hit 25-30 doubles, it's going to be a good season for me and for the team."

The Pirates took out an insurance policy in the off season when the signed veteran infielder Bobby Crosby. Six years ago, Crosby was the American League Rookie of Year. Since then, his career has gone downhill because of an assortment of injuries.

Pirates GM Neal Huntington and manager John Russell have Cedeno penciled in at shortstop, but Crosby is waiting in the wings.

"Cedeno has all the tools to be a very good major league player," Huntington opined. "We've got to find a way for him to do that on a consistent basis."

Cedeno is well aware that Crosby is lurking in the wings if he should falter.

"Every spring training, you're in competition," Cedeno said. "I want my job. I'll do whatever they want me to do. They're giving me an opportunity to be the everyday shortstop, and I want to make it. I don't want to miss it."

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