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Negrych buys into the plan

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Jim Negrych was a home run-hitter during his career at Pitt. In the pros, however, he is a doubles hitter. Coming to grips with that — and embracing it — allowed him to blossom this year in the Pirates’ minor league system.

“It was a matter of getting my swing fine-tuned, compared to the year before,” Negrych said. “It was understanding what type of hitter I am, because it’s such a drastic change from what I was in college. I’m going to the plate with the mentality of, instead of trying to hit the ball out of the park., I’m just trying to put it in play.”

Negrych’s .359 batting average was fifth-best in all of the minor leagues this year. He also ranked fifth in on-base percentage (.438), ninth in hits (170) and 12th in doubles (41). Negrych finished the season with Double-A Altoona.

“In the future, if things don’t work out, I’m sure I’ll look back and say, ‘Wow, that was a pretty good year,’ ” Negrych said. “I went from hitting .280 last year and being hurt all the time to hitting .360 and feeling good all the time.”

Last year, Negrych was too aggressive with his swing, trying to hack everything out of the yard. This year, he calmed down at the plate and his swing was smoother.

“It’s the same thing my coach at Pitt preached at me, the same thing they preached at me in my first year in pro ball,” Negrych said. “It just took me a little while to get it and change it. I finally bought into the plan.”

This afternoon, Negrych will be honored as the Pirates’ minor league player of the year. He flew in last night from Bradenton, Fla., and will go back tonight to continue his Instructional League training. In a few weeks, he’ll compete in the Hawaii Winter League.

Rough life, huh? Negrych is eating up all the attention, though he was bummed about getting into Pittsburgh too late to see Pitt’s 21-20 victory against Iowa and will miss seeing the Buffalo Bills’ game on TV because of the return flight.

Lineups for today’s game:

ASTROS — Bourn CF, Loretta 2B, Tejada SS, Berkman 1B, Blum 3B, Pence RF, Wiggington LF, Ausmus C, Oswalt (15-10, 3.57) RHP

PIRATES — Morgan LF, Sanchez 2B, McLouth CF, Doumit C, Adam LaRoche 1B, Moss RF, Andy LaRoche 3B, Cruz SS, Ohlendorf (0-2, 7.62) RHP

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