When the Pirates traded fan favorite Jack Wilson to the Seattle Mariners just two days before the trade deadline, the main asset they were getting back was first baseman Jeff Clement. Clement was one of the bigger prospects for the Mariners at the time and to start the 2010 season, he won the everyday job at first.
Unfortunately, Clement made a bigger impact in his Pepsi commercial chatting it up with Alfonso Soriano than he did on the field for the Pirates that year hitting just .201. However after battling through a season ending knee injury that cost him the rest of the season and part of last year, Clement has turned his season and career for that matter around in Indianapolis this year.
In 112 games in the minors this year, Clement is hitting .276 with 16 home runs and 57 RBI prompting him to rejoin the Pirates as they start their six-game home stand.
“As we look to recalibrate, Jeff has put in the time and the bat has played,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “We were looking for a left-handed bat to play with off the bench. We felt he was as good as a candidate that was available than anything externally. This kid has committed himself through a number of years fighting back through adversity.”
For Clement, he said he’s happy to be back, but wasn’t expecting to get called back at this time.
“I was very surprised, but it’s the best news I could have gotten so I’m excited to be here for sure,” Clement said. “I thought there might have been a chance in September because I wasn’t on the 40-man or anything like that. The timing of it was surprising to me for sure.”
Clement said after battling for the past year and a half, he’s very thankful for this opportunity.
“It’s great. I think about where I was a year ago right now just coming off of rehab and playing sparingly in Triple-A,” Clement said. “To have a solid year this year and to be back here is everything I have hoped it would be and I’m excited about the opportunity.”
To help him pick up his game, Clement said that he changed his swing following right before his surgery.
“Right before I had the surgery, I had tweaked a few things,” Clement. “I had started the year up then got sent back down. When I had gone back down, I was staying on the ball a little bit better. I think that I carried that over after the surgery with my knee not feeling great it changed a little bit.”
When asked about his role on the team, Clement said that he hadn’t talked to Hurdle yet, but expects to learn more as the time goes on. The skipper however, said they can use him in various ways.
“He’ll give us an option at first base as well (as off the bench),” Hurdle said. “If there’s a day we maybe want to bulrush a right-handed pitcher then you know, we can move Jones out to right, Snider to left and Jeff to first and get after them at that angle as well.”
Aside from the obvious element of winning, Hurdle said there were other factors that went into calling up Clement.
“Number one we think he can help us win and number two, I think we’re adding to a lot of things,” Hurdle said. “Clubhouse chemistry, experience factor and hopefully what I think will be a difficult guy to get out when we use him on the ball field.”
“As the season went on, he showed his health was in the right place which was a big question as well.”
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