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(J. Meric/2011 Getty Images)
(J. Meric/2011 Getty Images)

Overbay finds fresh start with Pirates Add to ...

Lyle Overbay dashed into the clubhouse and over to his locker where he must have set a new land-speed record for throwing on a fresh pair of baseball pants and the bright yellow jersey of his new team, the Pittsburgh Pirates.

"Late for a bunting meeting," the first baseman said to no one in particular as he made himself presentable.

When it was pointed out to Overbay that he hasn't had to worry about bunting the past few years playing with the Toronto Blue Jays, he said that the meeting was to discuss defensive strategies.

"This is the National League after all," Overbay said as he raced away.

After five seasons playing for the Blue Jays, it seems odd to see Overbay in a new setting playing for a new team. He signed a one-year deal worth $5-million (all currency U.S.) to play for Pittsburgh this season.

Even Overbay was beginning to view himself as a Blue Jays lifer.

And for a while there, in late July when the Blue Jays traded highly-rated first base prospect Brett Wallace to the Houston Astros in exchange for Anthony Gose, it appeared that Overbay might be able to extend his stay.

"But I don't think I was really an option for them right from the get-go," the 34-year-old said during a recent interview here at Pirates City, where Pittsburgh holds its spring training.

"I think I was a C, D or E option. The Blue Jays had their plan mapped out and were intent on sticking with it."

That plan involved letting Overbay depart as a free agent to allow room for the Blue Jays to see if the younger Adam Lind, 27, could handle the job at first after being Toronto's designated hitter.

Lind hasn't played first base since his college days.

Overbay has no doubt Lind has the skill to learn a new position but he warns that it will not be an easy transition doing it on the fly at the major-league level.

"It's important that people don't expect too much from him all at once," Overbay said. "He'll do fine but he'll trip up ever once in a while. That's just the price you pay for getting the experience."

The experience for Overbay his past couple of seasons in Toronto was anything but enjoyable as he struggled to regain the batting stroke that helped earn him a four-year, $24-million contract extension following the 2006 season.

That season, his first in Toronto, Overbay hit .312 with 22 home runs and 46 doubles.

It's been downhill ever since.

A solid defender at first, Overbay's swing has never been the same since he broke a bone in his right wrist that required surgery midway through the 2007 season.

Last season started out as a horror show for Overbay, who had just one hit over his first 11 games and just 13 after 20.

By May 11, Overbay's average had dwindled to .167.

Only the largesse of Cito Gaston, the former Blue Jays manager who promised Overbay heading into a contract season that he'd stick with him at first base, made things bearable.

Overbay managed to turn things around over the second half of the season, finishing with a .243 batting average and 20 home runs.

Although he's joining a Pittsburgh team that has not had a winning season in 18 years, Overbay said he is excited by the prospect of being a part of a rebuilding process.

"At least I won't have to deal with the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox all the time," he said. "Despite what anybody says that's frustrating. We had some good seasons in Toronto and couldn't even get close to the playoffs."

 

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