Notes: Move surprises Wigginton

Notes: Move surprises Wigginton

PITTSBURGH -- Pirates Opening Day third baseman Ty Wigginton said Wednesday that he was shocked by manager Lloyd McClendon's announcement a day earlier that Freddy Sanchez would get the majority of starts at the hot corner.

Wigginton lost the starting job after hitting .145 in April, and had been platooning at third base with Rob Mackowiak. Sanchez's emergence will cut into Wigginton's playing time even more.

"I guess I was kind of shocked," said Wigginton. "Obviously the season started out real slow. There's nobody to blame but myself. At the same time, I think it was like 38 at-bats and I started in a platoon situation only. I felt like if I got the at-bats, I'd be able to put up good numbers for these guys."

Wigginton, who was in the starting lineup at first base in place of Daryle Ward on Thursday because of recent success (five hits in his 16 previous at-bats) against Marlins southpaw Dontrelle Willis, pointed out that he got off to a slow start with the Mets last April before hitting nearly .300 the following three months.

"When I was with the Mets, they stayed with me when I went through my rut last year and let me run out there every day," said Wigginton. "By the time I came over here, I was on pace for a 20-plus homer season and 80 RBIs.

"It's too bad I came over here and pressed a little bit. Maybe that has something to do with what is going on this year. I have no idea. I don't feel like I pressed at all. It's just the matter of getting the opportunity to play."

Wigginton was particularly upset by the fact that he has not been given a chance to play regularly despite hitting .333 with five home runs and eight RBIs in his last nine starts.

"I feel if I go out and swing the bat, [McClendon is] going to have to find a way to get me in there," said Wigginton. "At the same time, you wonder when you don't get a start after a multihit game. I figured a couple of times I'd get in there."

McClendon said that Wigginton should not be surprised by the move. According to the skipper, he informed Wigginton of the situation before making the announcement to the media.

"He clearly understood how I felt and my intentions when he came in to talk to me," said McClendon. "There was no gray area."

   Ty Wigginton  /   3B
Born: 10/11/77
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 200 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

As McClendon sees it, players such as Sanchez and Mackowiak have earned the additional playing time. Sanchez entered Thursday with a .300 average in his 18 starts. Mackowiak is hitting .422 in 23 games since May 3.

"[Wigginton] hasn't performed up to his capabilities," said McClendon. "Other guys have had opportunities because he did not perform, and they took advantage of it. So they're still in the lineup. That's the way it works. I didn't create this, players' performances created it."

McClendon added that he still believes Wigginton will be a contributor to the team.

"It's a long season. At some point, we're going to need him to step up and perform the way he is capable of performing," said McClendon. "Leaving Spring Training, I said I thought he had a chance to be a pretty good third baseman at this level."

Fundamentally sound: McClendon has continually stressed the importance of playing fundamentally sound baseball, particularly against strong opponents. For him, it's no coincidence that the Pirates' three straight wins over the Marlins have come at a time when the Bucs seem to be doing all of the little things right, from moving runners into scoring position and taking the extra base to laying down bunts and throwing to the proper bases.

"During this series we've done all of those things," said McClendon. "That's how you compete against the big-time clubs that have the power. We can turn a walk into an extra-base hit, a base hit into a double, a double into a triple by doing those things."

"I thought on our last homestand we were playing some pretty solid fundamental baseball," said McClendon. "Obviously this homestand we've gotten the results. I made the comment to our general manager [Dave Littlefield] that we really looked like a Major League ballclub, where we were performing on every level, executing the way we should. Then we went on the road and kind of booted the ball around a little bit. But we're certainly back to playing the way we are capable."

   Salomon Torres  /   P
Born: 03/11/72
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 210 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

Promising outing for Torres: An added benefit of the Pirates' blowout win against the Marlins on Wednesday was the opportunity for Salomon Torres to pitch three innings in relief. Torres, who was plagued early in the season by neck and back stiffness, had thrown only four innings since May 23.

"It couldn't have worked any better than how it did," said McClendon. "Those were much-needed innings for him."

Torres entered the game in the seventh inning with the Pirates leading, 5-1, and he was more than happy to serve as an innings eater once the rout was on.

"It feels great to go out and contribute for the team," said Torres. "To be able to save some arms for the rest of the guys and give them an extra day's rest, I'll take the three innings."

Torres is optimistic that he has put the neck problem behind him.

"I've been feeling great. It's been almost a month since my neck has been bothering me," said Torres. "Hopefully it's gone for good."

Just visiting: Pirates players Tike Redman, Josh Fogg, Ryan Vogelsong, Jack Wilson and Mackowiak will each visit a local baseball field on Saturday morning as part of the Junior Pirates program.

Pirates players and coaches fund the Junior Pirates program, now in its 16th season, which teaches children ages 5-8 good sportsmanship and the fundamentals of the game. Through Pirates donations, more than 1,500 kids have been provided with new baseball uniforms and equipment.

"I got involved with the program because a lot of kids look up to us and we can make a difference," said Redman. "Maybe it will change their lives. Maybe it will keep them on the right track."

On deck: The Pirates will open a three-game series against the Atlanta Braves at PNC Park on Friday night. Right-hander Kip Wells (3-4, 3.99 ERA) will square off against former Oakland A's star Tim Hudson (6-3, 3.00 ERA). The Bucs have dropped nine of their last 12 meetings against the Braves since 2003.

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