Miami Herald (Sunday)

Priester, Pirates set to get to work

- From Miami Herald Wire Services

Quinn Priester is very much trying to live in the moment. That doesn't mean it’s easy. Not when the Pittsburgh Pirates are pointing to you as one of the key parts of a core they believe will one day return the team to contention.

So yeah, as much as the 20-year-old right-hander is aware of how much work remains to be done before he reaches the majors, his mind tends to wander toward what could be.

“I think like anybody would, I catch myself a little bit daydreamin­g about playoff games at PNC,” Priester said Saturday.

Even if those dreams likely remain out of reach in the short term for both Priester and the organizati­on. The Pirates are still in the early stages of a top-to-bottom makeover and are coming off a season in which they finished with the worst record in the big leagues. And Priester is still hoping for something akin to a sense of normalcy, namely facing batters with something significan­t on the line.

That wasn’t the case during 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic sent the minor league season into hiatus. He impressed at the satellite camp in Altoona and during instructio­nal play, but it’s not quite the same, and he knows it.

“I’m itching,” he said. “Like I’m very much itching to get out there and to put all the work, especially from the offseason, and

I’ll include last year, into a game environmen­t and for it to matter toward a win and loss record.”

Where he’ll begin 2021 is uncertain, though he’s getting a taste of what potentiall­y awaits him. Priester will start spring training at the big league camp, trying to glean what he can from more experience­d players while developing a relationsh­ip with pitching coach Oscar Marin.

Marin got an eyeful during one of Priester’s outings in the Arizona Fall League. What stood out was simply the way Priester commanded the strike zone with multiple pitches. He got ahead of hitters with his curveball. His fastball — which can touch the upper 90s — worked well high in the strike zone. He drew soft contact off his changeup and threw fewer than 40 pitches in three innings, the kind of efficiency that’s a valuable currency, particular­ly for a prospect still seven months shy of his 21st birthday.

Yet Priester is careful not to get ahead of himself. Sure, he’s put around 25 pounds of muscle on his 6-foot-3 frame since the Pirates selected him with the 18th overall pick two years ago. Still, there’s still growing — both on the field and off — to do.

“I do try and watch what I eat,” he said.

“Keep my eating clean and healthy and then trying to add weight that way as opposed to grabbing Happy Meals from McDonald’s.”

ELSEWHERE

A Indians: Cy Young winner Shane Bieber reported to training camp Saturday after having beenquaran­tined with COVID-19.

Bieber, baseball’s best pitcher in 2020, was medically cleared and joined Cleveland’s other pitchers and catchers in Goodyear, Arizona. The 25-year-old recently tested positive for the virus, but experience­d only mild symptoms.

A Yankees: Brett Gardner is back. After waiting until the last weekend before position players are to report to spring training, the team and 37-year-old veteran outfielder agreed on a oneyear deal worth $4 million Friday night, a source confirmed.

It was not a surprise. Even though the Yankees declined his $10 million option back in November, it was believed Gardner would come back on a more team-friendly deal.

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