ORLANDO, Fla. In his first two games at first base, Pirates converted catcher Jeff Clement handled 15 chances without an error.
"I feel all right over there," Clement reported. "Obviously, I want to get better and more consistent, but as far as knowing where to be and when to be there, things are coming along well."
The only hiccup was the wind-blown pop up that Clement misjudged in the third inning of a 4-2 setback against the Atlanta Braves on Thursday afternoon. A 12 miles-per-hour wind played tricks with the ball, which landed several feet behind Clement in foul territory.
"I didn't pick up the ball off the bat," said Clement, whose miscue did not lead to any runs. "It was definitely my play. It was a ball that I definitely should have caught, but I overran it. Better to have it happen in March than in April."
Clement also was in position to make a putout at second base after third baseman Andy LaRoche had cut off a throw from left field.
"At least I wasn't behind home plate. That's a good sign," Clement said in reference to his former position. "Andy made a great throw and we were able to avoid a big inning."
BUSY BODY: It was a whirlwind off-season for pitcher Jesse Chavez, who was traded from the Pirates to the Tampa Bay Rays to the Braves in a span of five weeks.
"I've been around a lot of veterans, and it helps," Chavez said of his newest team. "I've learned a lot in a couple of weeks (in spring training)."
In November, Chavez was dealt to the Rays in return for second baseman Akinori Iwamura. The Braves acquired him in return for pitcher Rafael Soriano a short time later.
The Braves believe that Chavez and his mid-90's fastball will eventually be a good match for the late innings.
"I won't say that it wasn't (in Pittsburgh), but it's a good situation for me here," Chavez said. "The Braves asked about me last year. It's good to be wanted, I guess."
Last season, Chavez had a 1-4 record and 4.01 earned run average in 73 appearances.
He considered it to be a positive experience.
"Last year I was so worried about how I would do (on the field) rather than go about my business and treat it like any other game," Chavez said. "This year it really helped me. I'm more relaxed and know what to do now. I've been through it before."
LONG AND SHORT OF IT: Most baseball people will tell you that brisk weather favors the pitchers, but batting coach Don Long won't use weather as an excuse.
"It hasn't been that bad this spring," Long said. "For the most part, we've be able to do what we planned here."
On two occasions, live batting practice was moved indoors because of rainy conditions, but batters did not take swings.
"Probably, depending on who you spoke to, that wasn't necessarily a bad thing," Long managed to joke.
The team totaled three hits in its Grapefruit League opener on Wednesday afternoon, but Long believed there were reasons to be optimistic just the same. He pointed to an opposite-field single off the bat of 21-year-old outfielder Jose Tabata as a prime example.
"We did some good things," Long said.
"Some of the things that we want the players to focus on early this spring keeping their eyes and the barrel of the bat in the strike zone longer they did a good job to execute. As they see more breaking pitches and settle in, their timing will get better."