Bay Making Bid for Rookie Honors

Bay Making Bid for Rookie Honors

As we get set for the second half of the Major League baseball season to get under way the Pirates might have a player who is ready to accomplish something that no Pirate player has done. Outfielder Jason Bay has emerged as a legitimate candidate for the National League Rookie-Of-The-Year award. No Pirates player has captured that honor since the award began in 1947.

Bay has 10 home runs and 35 RBI at the All-Star break and his .374 on-base percentage and .618 slugging percentage are tops among all NL rookies.

Bay was part of the trade with San Diego that sent popular and productive outfielder Brian Giles to the Padres. Bay came to Pittsburgh along with pitcher Oliver Perez who has pitched extremely well and another pitcher Cory Stewart.

"I think a lot of the pressure, the expectations I should say, got deflected with Oliver and Cory coming, too," Bay said. "It was a lot easier for all of us not trying to live up to a Brian Giles, trying to jump in and take his spot. We're just trying to do what we did that got us here."

Bay got off to a slow start this season when he came off the disabled list May 7 after shoulder surgery in November. He had spent more than a month in Bradenton, Fla., in extended spring training. And he'd rehabbed with the Pirates' Nashville affiliate.

But he was still a bit rusty.

"I guess realistically, yeah, you would expect [a slow start]," Bay explained. "But personally, no, because once you get out there and you play -- regardless of the surgery or the time I missed -- [I] revert back to where I was last year [when] I felt good."

The low point occurred on June 15 when he struck out all four times he batted against the Anaheim Angels. His batting average, once in the high .300s had plummeted to .259.

He did a lot of soul searching following that debacle.

"I was a little disappointed at the time -- obviously," Bay said. "But I learned a long time ago that it's not going to do me any good to whine about it the next day. It wasn't a big deal. I've gone through those days before. And I woke up the next day, and it was another day, and we just went from there."

Manager Lloyd McClendon and hitting Coach Gerald Perry tried to boost Bay's confidence and it paid off. Bay has been on a roll ever since.

He has settled in nicely and is playing within himself and not pushing like he was earlier.

"Especially a young guy like myself coming up and trying to establish myself," he said. "I probably tried to do a little too much a little too soon and got in a hole and tried to dig myself out quicker every time."

"This guy's a good player," McClendon said. "It was just a matter of time before he showed it. His shoulder's feeling better. He's getting the rust off. He's getting to play. He's getting used to the speed of the game at this level [again]."

Bay is becoming a big part of the Pirates offense and despite their June swoon - Bay likes the look of this young Pirates team and hopes to be a big part of the future in Pittsburgh.

"I'd like to stick around here long enough to grow with a lot of these young guys," he said. "I like to think I'm going to be a middle-of-the-order guy that's going to produce runs.

"I'm not going to give you numbers and say this many home runs or RBIs, but I would like to be someone that was counted on to do that because ultimately that's what I do."

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