Notes: Wilson hopes to hit

Notes: Wilson hopes to hit

PITTSBURGH -- It's the unofficial beginning of summer, and Pirates shortstop Jack Wilson is still looking for a way to get his bat started.

Wilson entered Monday's action batting .199 with 11 extra-base hits in 176 at-bats. This follows a breakout year in which he batted .308 with 201 hits, and nabbed the National League Silver Slugger Award.

As this season has progressed with his batting average continuing to hover below the Mendoza Line, Wilson admits he has been pressing even more to right the ship.

"It's difficult," said Wilson. "You want to get a hit so bad because your average is so low. You pretty much swing at everything. You're pressing. You know what your average is. You know you are not playing well."

According to Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon, Wilson's impatience at the plate has only served to perpetuate the shortstop's hitting woes.

"The biggest thing is that Jack needs to stop fighting himself from a mechanical standpoint," said McClendon. "[He needs to] relax, let everything come to him and not try to force it so much.

"He's got to stop going out of the strike zone."

It's not as if Wilson doesn't know what he is doing wrong. But making the necessary adjustments has been difficult.

"Last year I could take a 2-0 pitch and be like, 'That's fine, [the pitcher] has to come again.' Now I'm trying to get any pitch I can get in the strike zone to get a knock," Wilson explained.

"You're anxious. Obviously that's not good. But that's human nature. You want to go out and do well right now to get back to where you need to be. You're going up swinging because the only way you can get back is to get hits. That's the hard part. You're almost trying to do too much to where now you're swinging at everything."

Wilson does not believe that his offensive struggles have been purely the result a poor approach. Five months after undergoing an emergency appendectomy, Wilson said that he is still feeling the effects of the surgery. Because he could not work out after the procedure, the shortstop came to Spring Training feeling weak. That feeling hasn't gone away.

"The strength that you get for the season comes from your offseason workouts, [and] I had absolutely none," said Wilson. "That's a huge part of it.

"When you lose all of that, it's tough to feel strong at the plate. I'm feeling pretty tiny right now."

Wilson met with conditioning coordinator Frank Velasquez and team doctors on Monday to develop a plan to increase his strength training without decreasing the flexibility that he needs in the field.

And if that doesn't work? Would Wilson be ready to accept a spot on the bench to free up playing time for others who are hitting better?

"You want the best team out there that can help you win the game," said Wilson. "At points in the first couple of months I've not been the best choice to go out and play shortstop. I'll be the first one to admit it.

"[Getting benched] is a possibility. It definitely is. If it comes down to that decision, then that's what it's going to be."

Sanchez gets another start: Freddy Sanchez, who is hitting .295 in 78 at-bats this season, was in the starting lineup at third base on Monday against Florida southpaw Al Leiter. It was the fourth consecutive start for Sanchez and his third straight game batting in the leadoff spot.

"Sanchez has the unique ability to put the ball in play," said McClendon. "He has the knack for putting the fat part of the bat on the ball. You've got to like that."

Once a top prospect with Red Sox, Sanchez had to battle his way up the Pirates' organizational depth chart after undergoing surgery in November 2004 to remove a bone spur from his right ankle. Sanchez appeared in just 44 games with Triple-A Nashville last season and nine more as a September callup with the Pirates.

"It's been a long road for me," said Sanchez. "When I did finally get healthy, obviously the plans changed and there were other people there for the job. I just kept working to show them that I could do what they ask of me."

Sanchez, who has played second base, shortstop and third base with the Pirates, is willing to do even more than the team has asked. He recently volunteered to start taking fly balls in the outfield in order to be more versatile.

"I'm trying to get in any way I can," said Sanchez. "The more positions you can play and the more available you make yourself, the better off you are going to be. It wouldn't hurt for me to go out there and get some work."

Ross returns: Catcher David Ross was back in the starting lineup Monday for the first time since suffering a right knee contusion on Saturday night against the Reds. The injury occurred when Ross collided with Reds first baseman Adam Dunn.

"I was a little worried," said Ross. "I never had to come out of a game before for anything.

"It feels pretty good today. Hopefully it stays that way."

Ross, who had the knee wrapped as a precaution, does not expect the injury to affect his play.

"I wouldn't be in the lineup if I didn't think I could do a good enough job to help us win," said Ross. "I'm going to go as hard as I can."

McClendon was impressed by his catcher's ability to recover so quickly after the collision.

"It looked ugly when it happened. I thought he broke his knee," said McClendon. I tell you what, he's a tough [man]."

Quote of the day: "Our last test didn't go to well in St. Louis. I don't think we passed that one. This is obviously another chance to step up and prove to some people we can play." -- Wilson, on the challenge of facing the Marlins, Braves and Orioles in the next 10 days

On deck: The Pirates and Marlins will face off for the second game of a four-game series Wednesday. Bucs southpaw Oliver Perez (3-4) will go in search of his third consecutive win. Florida will counter with right-hander A.J. Burnett (3-4, 3.19 ERA).

Ed Eagle is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.