Barajas takes over behind the plate

Barajas takes over behind the plate

ST.LOUIS -- Pirates catcher Rod Barajas was back in the lineup for Friday night's series opener against the Cardinals after missing three games with a bone bruise in his left knee.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said Barajas was available in an emergency situation on Thursday night, but that he and Barajas felt another day of rest would be beneficial.

"We figured the game yesterday, having another full day of resting would put me in a good spot for today, so [I'm] still waking up sore and that's going to continue to happen with the bruise," Barajas said on Friday. "It's gonna take a while before that heals, but I feel good enough to go out there and compete today."

"He's done a fantastic job of pushing himself aggressively, but not over aggressively," Hurdle said. "So we feel confident that he's in a position now to compete again."

Barajas sustained the injury on Monday in Philadelphia on a play at the plate with Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins. Barajas said he'll evaluate the condition of his knee on a day-to-day basis, making sure it heals properly.

Barajas said he spoke with Rollins, who also battled a deep bone bruise of his own last June, before leaving Philadelphia. Rollins told Barajas that the injury caused him to feel great one day and sore the next. Barajas expects nothing different with his case.

"It's just like any other kind of bruise," Barajas said. "Over time it heals but at the same time, if you keep poking it and just irritating it, it's gonna take longer for it to go away. It's something that we're going to have to see how the wear and tear of catching affects it."

Michael McKenry did a fine job filling in for Barajas in Philadelphia. The 27-year-old hit .571 (8-for-14) with two homers and six RBIs in four games. Hurdle said the club hopes Barajas can play nine innings on Friday, but McKenry will be available if needed.

After going on a hot streak in Barajas' absence, McKenry understands and accepts going back to the bench.

"I think it's the life of a catcher," he said. "When I first started this season, I tried to prepare for the day I was going to play but I've learned as a backup catcher, you have to be ready every single day no matter what. You prepare for the starting pitcher that's throwing that day, and be prepared for whatever situation."

McKenry, who has yet to spend a full season in the big leagues, said Barajas' guidance has been crucial in his development as a Major League catcher. For example, McKenry caught Pirates ace A.J. Burnett on Thursday for the first time this season, and Barajas was there the whole game to coach him along.

"He's really taken me under his wing. He's full of knowledge," McKenry said. "He's got 12 years in the big leagues. Anyway you can bridge that gap, which he's helping me do, teaching me as much as he can where you bridge that gap where I feel like I don't have just a year and a half in the big leagues, but I have five or six years of knowledge.

"We're just happy to have him back. He controls the pitching staff, he's a good leader on the field so it's just good to have him back."