Minor League Report: Reid Brignac
Prized shortstop's glovework catching up to formidable stick
ST. PETERSBURG -- Reid Brignac's bat has never been in question.
Despite a two-month slump in 2007, the infielder led the Double-A Southern League in runs scored (91) and extra-base hits (52), was third in RBIs (81) and batted .260.
What has made the Rays hesitate to call up the highly touted prospect to the Majors is Brignac's defensive skills -- he committed more than 30 errors in 2005 and 2006.
"I was throwing a lot of over-the-top balls and throwing them in the dirt," said Brignac.
So last May, the shortstop didn't hesitate to overhaul his mechanics, working diligently with Minor League field coordinator Jim Hoff and Double-A Montgomery hitting coach Hector Torres to restructure his throwing motion.
"We knew where we wanted to go, so it was just a question of [Brignac] buying into it, and he bought into it at the right time," said Hoff.
The results have left little to be desired.
After committing 19 errors through his first 90 games with Montgomery in 2007, Brignac had only three more miscues in his final 43 games.
Unfortunately, the shortstop has been unable to showcase his newfound defensive skills this spring.
While batting in last week's first intrasquad game, Brignac was hit by a pitch and broke his pinky toe. Brignac said he felt fine; a trip to the trainer's room later said otherwise.
After sitting out the Rays' first four games, Brignac said he was instructed to "take it slow and see how it goes" when he made his debut on Wednesday.
The results were sluggish, as Brignac was 0-for-2 and couldn't turn what should have been a double play on the field.
But the Rays are hardly worried about Brignac, labeled the club's shortstop of the future.
As manager Joe Maddon points out, there is more to Brignac than a quick bat and improved defense.
"He's a team kind of a guy, and he's really passionate and eager to get better," Maddon said. "So the internal motor is really good. You can talk all you want to about the physical things, I like what's going on inside of his head."
A good catch: John Jaso's patience is beginning to pay off.
The 2003 12th-round Draft pick has been under the radar, due in part to a series of injuries and the Rays' cautiousness in advancing the young catcher. But with starter Dioner Navarro's late arrival to camp, the Rays have called on the backup catcher more often than anyone expected. Although he is currently listed behind Navarro, Shawn Riggans and Mike DeFelice, Jaso says he trusts the Rays to make the right decisions.
"The big leagues is always the ideal -- it's where I want to be ultimately -- but whatever the plan is for me, I'm just going to have to go do the best I can there and let it happen the way it's supposed to happen," Jaso said.
After spending last season with Double-A Montgomery, the Rays are likely to put the catcher at Triple-A Durham for a season before he makes the jump to the Major Leagues. As expected, Jaso understands the club's long-term goals.
"I adjusted pretty well with my offense," Jaso said of his Spring Training play so far. "I just have to get more experience and develop more as a catcher."
Class of '07: No. 1 overall Draft pick David Price is scheduled to make his Spring Training debut on Saturday against the Yankees in Tampa, Fla. Price experienced tightness in his throwing arm last week but said he felt fine on Wednesday, throwing to hitters at the Al Naimoli Complex. Maddon said Price described his arm situation as perfectly normal, adding that the lefty says he hasn't given the injury a second thought. The outing will mark Price's first game situation since June.
What they're saying: "Oh yeah, around here, it's fun just to win, no matter what time of the year it is. 4-0 is 4-0 ." -- J.P. Howell on the Rays' hot Spring Training start, prior to Wednesday's loss
Brittany Ghiroli is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.