5 Pittsburgh Pirates A fast start by Adrian Brown will boost his confidence--and the team's

March 26, 2001
March 26, 2001

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March 26, 2001

Baseball 2001 Preview

5 Pittsburgh Pirates A fast start by Adrian Brown will boost his confidence--and the team's

Being Adrian Brown means moving through the Pittsburgh
organization like a ghost, constantly overlooked. It means being
the 26th man on a 25-man roster. Good, but not quite good enough.
That's what happens when you're a 48th-round pick, as Brown was
in the 1992 draft. At every stop over most of the last nine years
there's been someone in his way. Someone who was a higher draft
pick. Someone earning more cash. "I'd make it to a new level," he
says, "and there would be two guys ahead of me."

This is an article from the March 26, 2001 issue Original Layout

That's why despite having greater job security than he's ever
possessed, Brown arrived at the Pirates' spring training facility
in February as wary as he had been the day--shortly after
graduating from McComb (Miss.) High--he received a whopping $4,000
signing bonus to forget his commitment to Meridian Junior College
and join Pittsburgh's Rookie League club in Bradenton, Fla.

Can't Brown relax a little now, knowing that he's slated to be
the Pirates' every-day centerfielder and leadoff hitter? Doesn't
it help that new manager Lloyd McClendon has been hollering his
praises since the day Brown arrived in camp? Doesn't it matter to
the bashful, small-town, 27-year-old that he's being counted on
to turn Pittsburgh's new waterfront stadium, PNC Park, into
Excitement Central?

Well, no.

"Being a 48th-round pick, that's always going to stick with me,"
says Brown. "It's made me tougher and more determined. I've
always believed that if you can play, you can play. I can play,
but I've had to do a lot of convincing." Telemarketers have to do
a lot of convincing. What Brown has done is spend virtually all
of his career--the first seven years primarily in the minors, the
last two mostly with the Pirates--as a part-time player. His minor
league resume looks like Automobile Club of America's list of
blah Southern towns: Bradenton; Augusta; Lynchburg, Va.; and
Zebulon, N.C., plus stops in Lethbridge, Alberta; Calgary; and

Not that he missed the bright lights. As a boy growing up in tiny
Summitt, Miss., life was simple: baseball after school and
baseball on weekends. "In Summitt there's nothing to do," he
says. "For fun, people would go to the high school basketball
game and then McDonald's." Brown hadn't been on an airplane until
his first year of rookie ball, and his hands still get sweaty
upon boarding.

Growing up, he did not idolize Dale Murphy or Dave Winfield, big
stars at that time, but the overlooked Otis Nixon, a
toothpick-sized, switch-hitting spark plug. In 1994, after his
third season in the Pirates' organization, Brown was asked to
play in the Florida Instructional League so he could learn how to
switch-hit. He started out 0 for 26. "I just kept on trying," he
says. "I remember getting that first hit up the middle. Man, did
that feel good."

Brown was always able to jump on fastballs, but a lack of power
and an inability to hit breaking pitches slowed his rise to the
majors. He was finally called to Pittsburgh twice during the 1997
season, but he hit only .190 in 48 games; when he came back up in
August '98, he hit .283 in 41 games. He started the last two
seasons on the Pirates' Opening Day roster as a backup
outfielder, having his best year in 2000. After missing most of
last July because of a strained hamstring, Brown became the
full-time centerfielder and leadoff hitter--and dazzled. Showing
improved patience at the plate, he waited on curveballs and used
his speed to pile up ground ball hits.

Except for his low walk total (29), Brown is an ideal leadoff
hitter: good contact (only 34 strikeouts in 308 at bats), solid
on-base percentage (.373, but .428 in the second half), effective
baserunning (13 steals in 14 attempts) and a .315 average in 104
games. Now McClendon can drop Jason Kendall, the club's Opening
Day leadoff hitter by default the past two seasons, to the third
spot in the lineup.

In 2000 the Bucs ranked seventh in the NL in batting average
(.267), ninth in on-base percentage (.339) and 12th in home runs
(168) and stolen bases (86). They have All-Stars in Kendall and
Brian Giles, but the rest of the lineup is unspectacular--except
for Brown. The Pirates have featured several swift leadoff
hitters over the past two decades, but perhaps none boasted the
pure burst of Brown, as fluid a runner as they come. He is
also--shhh!--emerging from his cloak of anonymity. "This season,"
he says, "I'm going to give people something to talk


COLOR PHOTO: SCOTT JORDAN LEVY Brown, a 48th-round draft pick, has made a name for himself with his speed and his improved ability to handle tough curves.COLOR PHOTO: CHUCK SOLOMON GILES

an opposing team's scout sizes up the Pirates

"The starting pitching has a chance to be good. Kris Benson is
legit at the top of the rotation, Todd Ritchie had a fine year
to build on, and Jimmy Anderson is developing into a competent
pitcher in the middle of the rotation. A lot depends on how
Francisco Cordova (right elbow surgery) and Jason Schmidt (right
shoulder surgery) come back from injuries....Mike Williams is a
serviceable closer, but he doesn't have true closer's stuff.
Terry Mulholland will help the bullpen, but the Pirates also
have a bunch of guys who haven't had major league success, such
as Bronson Arroyo, Dan Serafini and Jose Silva....They have two
very good every-day players, Jason Kendall and Brian Giles.
Their biggest problem is they're unsettled up the middle. The
second baseman could be Enrique Wilson, who never has won an
every-day job; Warren Morris, who had a down year offensively;
or Pat Meares, who had a poor year at shortstop last season. At
shortstop they've got Meares and two unproven guys, Abraham
Nunez and Jack Wilson. First baseman Kevin Young and third
baseman Aramis Ramirez haven't shown they're consistent power
guys....This is not a great offensive team. The hitters lack
power and swing at everything....The Pirates have a new
ballpark, and they'll be sending a mediocre team into it. They
need some serious sock, they need to settle their infield, and
they need to catch the ball up the middle. They're a
middle-of-the-pack team that doesn't have a clear plan. They're
waiting to see which way a lot of their young guys develop."

projected roster with 2000 statistics

2000 record: 69-93 (fifth in NL Central)
Manager: Lloyd McClendon (first season with Pittsburgh)


CF Adrian Brown S-R 167 .315 4 28 13
RF Derek Bell[1] R 229 .266 18 69 8
C Jason Kendall R 42 .320 14 58 22
LF Brian Giles L 22 .315 35 123 6
3B Aramis Ramirez R 190 .256 6 35 0
1B Kevin Young R 136 .258 20 88 8
2B Pat Meares R 220 .240 13 47 1
SS Jack Wilson (R)* R 243 .282 7 50 3


OF John Vander Wal L 200 .299 24 94 11
IF Enrique Wilson[2] S-R 310 .293 5 27 2
OF Thomas Howard[1] S-R 344 .211 6 28 1
IF Mike Benjamin R 359 .270 2 19 5
C Keith Osik R 385 .293 4 22 3


RH Kris Benson 36 10 12 6.8 1.34 3.85
RH Jason Schmidt 126 2 5 5.8 1.77 5.40
RH Francisco Cordova 256 6 8 5.5 1.53 5.21
RH Todd Ritchie 152 9 8 6.0 1.39 4.81
LH Jimmy Anderson 323 5 11 5.4 1.58 5.25


RH Mike Williams 75 3 4 24 1.33 3.50
LH Terry Mulholland[1] 119 9 9 1 1.53 5.11
RH Josias Manzanillo 235 2 2 0 1.40 3.38
RH Rich Loiselle 259 2 3 0 1.72 5.10
RH Jose Silva 319 11 9 0 1.68 5.56
LH Scott Sauerbeck 334 5 4 1 1.81 4.04
RH Marc Wilkins 345 4 2 0 1.61 5.07

[1]New acquisition
(R) Rookie
B-T: Bats-throws
IPS: Innings pitched per start
WHIP: Walks plus hits per inning pitched
PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 156)
*Double A stats
[2]Combined AL and NL stats

"This is not a great offense. The hitters lack power and swing
at everything."