Jones hopes to prove himself in 2012

Garrett Jones and Casey McGehee probably will platoon for the Pirates at first base, but management would dearly love it if Jones could step up.

This much is certain: Jones isn't about to wait to find out. He was among 38 major-leaguers who reported to the team's voluntary five-day minicamp, and he made it clear he wasn't about to take any opportunity for granted.

"It's definitely a big year for me," Jones said. "I need to show I can be out there regularly and help the team on a consistent basis. I definitely think I can do that. I'm just trying to be relaxed and play the game. I don't want to overdo anything or over-think anything. Just play, have fun and win."

Jones, 30, was maddeningly inconsistent last season and wound up batting .243 with 16 home runs and 58 RBIs. The power numbers are decent, but he would go through interminable stretches of striking out, and the Pirates don't have the kind of lineup to hide that.

Some were surprised that he ended up back in Pittsburgh, though it certainly appeared he was a default choice. Management's preference was to re-sign Derrek Lee, who was outstanding after being acquired at the deadline, but he wouldn't return. Other first base options weren't there, so McGehee, a natural third baseman, was signed instead with the hope of converting.

The key stat: Jones has a .199 career average against lefties.

"When it's time for spring training, I've got to show them I'm better than the next guy," Jones said.

NOTES, QUOTES

--RHP Charlie Morton engaged in light exercises at the Pirates' voluntary minicamp in Bradenton, Fla., and said he expects to be ready for the start of the season after having October hip surgery: "Everything I do is done on the side of caution. But I think I can get back on time."

--3B Pedro Alvarez, who has firmed up his physique, was among the impressive position players in defensive drills at the Pirates' voluntary minicamp in Bradenton, Fla. The setting doesn't allow for much in the way of hitting, but there is plenty of work in the field.

--RHP Chris Resop was among the first to settle his arbitration contract, signing for one year at $850,000. Resop was used as a late-inning fireman, becoming a Clint Hurdle favorite in tough situations. He had a 4.39 ERA. "I'm looking forward to seeing us having another strong bullpen," Resop said.

--LHP Doug Slaten became the latest lefty reliever to sign a minor-league contract with a spring invitation. Slaten, 31, missed three months last season to an elbow injury and was non-tendered by the Nationals. He'll be part of a sweeping competition for one or two open bullpen spots.

--C Tony Sanchez, one of the Pirates' top prospects, has added 15 pounds in an attempt to get some pop back into his offense. With Class AA Altoona last season, he batted .241 and seldom struck the ball with authority. "I know I can drive the ball at this weight," Sanchez said.

BY THE NUMBERS: 4 -- Number of seasons for the Pirates' most tenured player, reliever Evan Meek, after the free-agent loss of starter Paul Maholm to the Cubs.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Last year, I wasn't hitting the ball like a man." --- C Tony Sanchez, one of the Pirates' top prospects, on his .241 average with Class AA Altoona.

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