While it not be every baseball players’ dream to get traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates, for the father of newly-acquired Pirate outfielder Jason Michaels it is.
Michaels was acquired Thursday from the Cleveland Indians in exchange for the infamous “player to be named later.” Michaels had batted (12-for-58) .207 with nine RBI in 21 games for the Indians. He had hit safely in five of his last six games with the Tribe.
Pirates general manager Neal Huntington was familiar with Michaels as Huntington had worked for the Indians as a Special Assistant to the General Manager in 2007.
“I didn’t have a chance to meet him last year,” Michaels of Huntington. “I heard a lot of good things about him. I had chance to talk to him yesterday on the phone.”
As a group, Pittsburgh’s outfielders entered Friday’s action ranked first in home runs (20), RBI (75), batting average (.311), slugging percentage (.541) and on-base percentage (.400). For the season, they have combined to post a Major League best .941 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage).
“I’m just very excited to come here. I hoping I can contribute,” said Michaels before suiting up Friday. “I haven’t really talked to anyone yet. I just flew in today. Hopefully, I can step in there, if they need a day off or something.”
In the seventh inning, Michaels was called upon to pinch-hit for pitcher Ian Snell. After fouling off the first two pitches, he took a called strike three.
One familiar face in the Pirate clubhouse for Michaels was bench coach Gary Varsho.
“Varsho and I came up together in Philly,” said Pittsburgh’s newest outfielder. I had four years with him. He was my Double-A manager.”
Pirates manager John Russell also has a working knowledge of Michaels’ on-the-field and off-the-field abilities from Russell’s days in the Phillies organization in 2006 and 2007.
“The people in the Philly organization liked him,” said the Pirates manager. “I saw him a few play a few times. He plays hard. Varsho has been around him and speaks highly of him. It’s good to pick him up. Plus, he can play all three outfield positions. He will be a nice addition in the clubhouse. He’s a nice piece to add to our roster.”
After playing in six games for the Phillies in 2001, Michaels played for Philadelphia from 2002-05 before joining the Indians. He batted .304 in 105 games in 2005. He is a career .277 batter.
To make room on the 25-man roster for Michaels, Nyjer Morgan was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis. Morgan batted .111 in 27 plate appearances, demonstrating that he desperately needed to get more at-bats, which he will at Indianapolis.
Pirates senior advisor Chuck Tanner, who was a scout with Cleveland last year, said, this of Michaels, “He has some pop in his bat. He can play three or four days in a row without hurting you. He hits lefthanders extremely well. I like him.”
While Michaels grew up in the Tampa area, his father was born just outside of Johnstown, Pa. and his mother is from Montgomery, W. Va. In fact, Michaels’ parents were visiting his mother’s parents when he got the word that he had been traded to the Pirates.
“When I was growing up, we didn’t have major league baseball in Tampa,” said Michaels. “We had spring training. My dad would take me to the Reds games in Plant City, especially when the Pirates were there. So, he was a big Pirates and Reds fan. My granddad, my dad’s father, played in the Reds organization.”
Not having a local team to watch during the regular season, Michaels relied on television to keep him up to-date on major league baseball.
“I grew up basically watching the White Sox and the Cubs on WGN,” Michaels said. “I just enjoyed watching the game. I didn’t have a favorite player. I just enjoyed watching players who played hard and did things right. That was the way my dad taught me when I was little. I could see differences.”
Now his father can watch him on FSN Pittsburgh.