Dejan Kovacevic of the Post Gazette is reporting that the Bucs and Ryan Church have reached a deal, pending a physical. And rest assured the Pirate sawbones will poke and prod Church.
Church's 2009 list of maladies included a sore hamstring, hyper-extended elbow, and back spasms. The back issues are the main concern. He also suffered a minor concussion while running out a grounder in 2008 and catching a knee to the noggin.
The 31 year-old was picked by the Cleveland Indians in the 14th round of the 2000 draft, from the University of Nevada at Reno. In January of 2004, he was traded by the Indians to the Montreal Expos.
He got into 30 games for the Expos in 2004, and stunk the joint out. But in 2005, he rallied after a slow start to get himself into the ROY race. That's when his first brush with the injury bug-a-boo occurred, ironically at PNC Park.
On June 22nd, 2005, he crashed into Pittsburgh's outfield wall. At the time, Church was batting .325 with a .544 slugging percentage. After the collision, he made two trips to the disabled list and faded in the second half of the season.
Still, he finished hitting .287 with with 9 homers and 42 RBI in just over 300 at-bats. Church started 2006 in AAA, but was called up quickly and in the past five years has put together a .272 lifetime average and played all three outfield positions.
Want some more Pittsburgh connections? On November 30th, 2007, Church was traded by the Washington Nats along with Brian Schneider to the New York Mets for Lastings Milledge.
On July 10th, 2009, he was traded to the Braves for Jeff Francoeur, and was DFA'ed by Atlanta on December 8th, 2009 to make room for the return of Rafael Soriano. The Braves non-tendered Church, whom we believe has one more arbitration year (he was a Super Two guy), making him a free agent and reconnecting him with the Pirates.
If he gets past the doc's exam later this week, he fills a definite need for the Bucs. Church is a left handed hitter, which means that Garrett Jones can go to first when a righty is on the hill (and that Brandon Moss' chances of making the team are growing dimmer; the Pirates will have more outfielders in camp than Carter has little pills!)
He hit .287/.357/.460 against righties over the past three seasons, making him a perfect platoon guy (he's played both off the bench and as a starter) and insurance policy for Jose Tabata.
Church is a pretty accomplished gloveman, too, having played center for Washington once upon a time, although he's surely penciled into a corner spot, likely right, in Pittsburgh.
The contract terms weren't announced. Church took in $2.8M last year, so it'll be interesting to see what the Bucs offered.
So if his back is up to snuff, it'll be time for the suits to reel in a couple of relievers and head to Florida.