Thursday, January 31, 2002

Pirates fan Pokey signs 2-year deal

Coach feels change will do him good

The Associated Press

        PITTSBURGH — Pokey Reese pulled on a black Pittsburgh Pirates cap — the fourth hat he has worn this winter but the first he has actually tugged on — and instantly was pleased with the fit.

        “I was a big Pirates fan when I was growing up, and I almost cried (in 1992) when they lost to the Braves,” Reese said Wednesday. “I didn't have a team to root for in South Carolina, so I rooted for the Pirates. So I'm happy to finally be a Pirate.”

        Imagine that — coming off 100 losses in their ninth consecutive losing season, the Pirates found a free agent who actually wanted to play for them. Just as important, he is a free agent they can afford.

        Reese, a two-time Gold Glove winner during his five-year Cincinnati career, agreed to a two-year contract worth at least $5million that fits into the Pirates' projected $48 million payroll.

        The 28-year-old second baseman was traded from the Reds to the Colorado Rockies to the Red Sox in a span of three days in December. But the Red Sox didn't offer him a contract, allowing him to become a free agent as they tried to sign him.

        “As a hitter, I struggled last year, so changing leagues might have hurt me even more,” said Reese, who hit a career-low .224 in 2001. “So I'm happy to stay in the National League.”

        Manager Lloyd McClendon, who held several long talks with Reese trying to persuade him to come to Pittsburgh, is certain Reese can again be the player he was in 1999, when he hit .285 with 10 home runs and 38 stolen bases.

        “He wasn't a happy kid (in Cincinnati) and probably wasn't as focused as much as he's used to being focused,” McClendon said.


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