Thursday, March 30, 2006

Chris Duffy Challenged by Nate McLouth

Speedster Chris Duffy, 25, seemed all but certain to win Pittsburgh's starting center field job by bringing a .300 minor league batting average to camp and by hitting at a .341 clip during a 126 AB callup last year, all while playing strong defense. But this spring Duffy has been troubled by a sore shoulder, sustained a concussion after being beaned and has struggled at the plate with a .230 average. Meanwhile rival Nate McLouth, 24, is batting .350 with three homers, six steals and 10 RBI, and has made it difficult for management to demote him. The idea of starting McLouth over Duffy is tempting, but expect McLouth to win a roster spot as a reserve and Duffy to keep the starter's job. Their assignments could be reversed by the end of camp or during the early weeks of the season if McLouth continues to outperform Duffy.