Michael McKenry (19) days until Opening Day.
The Fort, who was number 55 until new catcher Russell Martin joined the team, will be back with the Bucs as backup catcher in 2013.
Two questions about number 19…
1. How much will he play? Entering the offseason, one option was to give McKenry the starting job with Tony Sanchez backing him up. However, the club pursued and signed Russell Martin, so he’ll be seeing the bulk of playing time behind the dish. That being said, how much will McKenry play? We expect the $17 million Martin to catch some of the Bucs’ big guns, especially A.J. Burnett. Martin should be catching plenty, but McKenry will still have some opportunities.
2. Can he build off his offensive improvements? McKenry, now 28, was an extremely light-hitting catcher when the Pirates acquired him in June of 2011. He hit just .222 with two home runs in the final months of the ’11 season, but worked hard last offseason to improve his bat. It paid off for the scrappy backstop, as he increased his batting average by 11 points and belted 12 home runs in 88 games. He hit .405 with a 1.266 OPS in 11 games between June 24th and July 7th, including a seven-game hitting streak. While he’s still a light-hitter, he’s suitable for the backup role. McKenry will have to make the most of his opportunities in 2013, so it’ll be interesting if he can provide a decent bat off the bench.