ATLANTA -- When Rod Barajas wants to brighten his mood, all the Pittsburgh catcher has to do is look away from his batting average and toward the Pirates pitchers' ERA. The 36-year-old's contributions to the Pirates' offensive woes certainly deserve to be viewed through the prism of his contributions to the excellent staff-wide performance throughout a season now more than three weeks old. "Everybody's been doing a great job, every single time giving us a chance to win the game. That's what's been really impressive," said Barajas. "It's easy to be down on ourselves, because we're not swinging the bat. But for me, it's a lot easier when we're pitching well but not hitting. I wouldn't want it the other way around."
Spoken like a true catcher. Entering Saturday's game against the Braves, Michael McKenry has gotten even better results out of pitchers, whose collective ERA is lower with him behind the plate (2.21) than it is with Barajas (3.05), although both numbers are good. McKenry has worked half as many innings, and also had prior familiarity with most of the pitchers. One of the more impressive aspects of Barajas' influence is how quickly he has clicked with a staff of strangers. Other than A.J. Burnett, whom he caught years ago in Toronto, Barajas hadn't known any of these arms before Spring Training. "I've done this a few times," said Barajas, for whom the Pirates are his seventh Major League team, "and I've often said it takes all of Spring Training to get to know these guys. But Spring Training should be enough. "Talking to them, just spending time with them, is the big thing, going over what they like to do and what they're comfortable doing. Catching them in bullpens and games, you get a pretty good understanding of what they like to do. By the time the season starts, you should be on the same page."