Pirela Not Your Prototypical Leadoff Hitter

TRENTON, NJ - The Trenton Thunder utility man is not overwhelmingly fast, and doesn't provide top-of-the-lineup speed that many teams covet. In fact, he has only nine stolen bases, which doesn't even place the 22-year-old among the Eastern League's top 40 base stealers. But his shortcomings as a runner haven't prevented Pirela from being a competent leadoff man.

"He hits and he gets on base, it's pretty simple," Thunder manager Tony Franklin said. "You don't necessarily have to be a guy who steals bases, but I think his on-base percentage and his ability to get on base is a big factor in hitting him leadoff."

As of Wednesday, Pirela was third in the Eastern League with a .318 [90 for 283] batting average and ranked eighth with a .379 on-base percentage. He also has 52 runs, eight homers, 19 doubles, three triples and 33 RBIs.

He's put up such impressive numbers despite suffering a serious early-season injury. After being hit in the head by a pitch on April 11, Pirela missed over six weeks with concussion-like symptoms.

"Right now, I feel good batting leadoff," Pirela said through a translator. "As long as I get the opportunity to play, I am thankful for that.

"It's very important to see a lot of pitches and give information to the guys coming up to the plate after him. That's my job as leadoff. I'm going to try to keep taking advantage of it. I'm going to keep working hard and get better."

A native of Venezuela, Pirela has been terrific this year in late-game situations. Last Wednesday, the 5-foot-10, 191-pounder collected his fourth extra-inning walk-off on an 11th-inning sacrifice fly.

Pirela's consistency and clutch hitting might not have been possible last season. While playing mostly shortstop in 2011, Pirela struggled, hitting .239 [112 for 468] with eight homers and 45 RBIs.

"He's been a very consistent offensive player," Franklin said. "I think his offensive skills are there. There are some adjustments that need to be made, and last year he didn't make a great deal of adjustments offensively.

"But I think he has made quite a few adjustments this year, and I think that is reflective in his offensive ability, specifically batting average, runs scored and RBIs. He's done a great job in turning his season around, and this is after missing substantial time with his injury."

Some of his newfound success may have something to do with his position change. Pirela this season has yet to play shortstop.

"Maybe he's a little bit better suited for second base, third base and outfield," Franklin said. "It gives him a chance to move and he's doing great with it."

Pirela couldn't agree more. He said that his favorite position is second base, and when he plays there, it's easier for him to stay focused.

"That's helped me a lot, more concentration in the game," Pirela said. "I feel like this year, they put me at a place where I'm very familiar with, which is second base.

"But no matter where they put me, whether it's second, third, left or anywhere else, I'm ready to play. I feel like I've gotten better and I'm going to keep working hard at that."

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\r\n \r\n\r\n\"He hits and he gets on base, it's pretty simple,\" Thunder manager Tony Franklin said. \"You don't necessarily have to be a guy who steals bases, but I think his on-base percentage and his ability to get on base is a big factor in hitting him leadoff.\"
\r\n
\r\nAs of Wednesday, Pirela was third in the Eastern League with a .318 [90 for 283] batting average and ranked eighth with a .379 on-base percentage. He also has 52 runs, eight homers, 19 doubles, three triples and 33 RBIs.
\r\n
\r\nHe's put up such impressive numbers despite suffering a serious early-season injury. After being hit in the head by a pitch on April 11, Pirela missed over six weeks with concussion-like symptoms.
\r\n
\r\n\"Right now, I feel good batting leadoff,\" Pirela said through a translator. \"As long as I get the opportunity to play, I am thankful for that.
\r\n
\r\n\"It's very important to see a lot of pitches and give information to the guys coming up to the plate after him. That's my job as leadoff. I'm going to try to keep taking advantage of it. I'm going to keep working hard and get better.\"
\r\n
\r\nA native of Venezuela, Pirela has been terrific this year in late-game situations. Last Wednesday, the 5-foot-10, 191-pounder collected his fourth extra-inning walk-off on an 11th-inning sacrifice fly.
\r\n
\r\nPirela's consistency and clutch hitting might not have been possible last season. While playing mostly shortstop in 2011, Pirela struggled, hitting .239 [112 for 468] with eight homers and 45 RBIs.
\r\n
\r\n\"He's been a very consistent offensive player,\" Franklin said. \"I think his offensive skills are there. There are some adjustments that need to be made, and last year he didn't make a great deal of adjustments offensively.
\r\n
\r\n\"But I think he has made quite a few adjustments this year, and I think that is reflective in his offensive ability, specifically batting average, runs scored and RBIs. He's done a great job in turning his season around, and this is after missing substantial time with his injury.\"
\r\n
\r\nSome of his newfound success may have something to do with his position change. Pirela this season has yet to play shortstop.
\r\n
\r\n\"Maybe he's a little bit better suited for second base, third base and outfield,\" Franklin said. \"It gives him a chance to move and he's doing great with it.\"
\r\n
\r\nPirela couldn't agree more. He said that his favorite position is second base, and when he plays there, it's easier for him to stay focused.
\r\n
\r\n\"That's helped me a lot, more concentration in the game,\" Pirela said. \"I feel like this year, they put me at a place where I'm very familiar with, which is second base.
\r\n
\r\n\"But no matter where they put me, whether it's second, third, left or anywhere else, I'm ready to play. I feel like I've gotten better and I'm going to keep working hard at that.\"
\r\n
\r\n

\r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n\r\n
\r\n

Are you a monthly or 3-month subscriber to PinstripesPlus.com? Why not get two months free AND get 4 issues of our PinstripesPlus Magazine included by becoming an annual subscriber? Upgrade today to get the most out of your subscription.

\r\n

\r\n

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