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Fox keeps fighting

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PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — In the ninth inning today, Jake Fox hammered a curveball from Rays reliever Josh Lueke for a majestic, solo home run to left field. The two-out, pinch-hit blast gave the Pirates a 3-2 lead, although the Rays came up with two in the bottom of the inning to win it.

“All I was trying to do was square the ball up,” Fox said. “He doubled up on a pitch that I just missed a couple pitches before, a curveball. I hooked it foul the first time. It was just a little bit of an adjustment, waiting a hair of a second longer, and I kept it fair.”

Fox, 29, hopes to make the roster as a bench guy. A year ago, he stuck with the Orioles out of spring training, but wound up back in the minors after batting .246 in 27 games. “I’m at the point in my career where I know it’s not handed to you; I’ve got to fight for it,” Fox said. “I know that to get to where I want to go, I first have to be good coming off the bench in situations like that, where I just put a quality at-bat together. Try to square up a ball every time. I think now they trust me to come off the bench and put together a quality at-bat, good results or not. That’s the hard part. That’s what I learned from last year. I was all results-oriented because I was trying to make the team. Once we got to the regular season, it got me into a few bad habits. Because pitchers miss in spring training more than in the season. It took me a while to get out of those bad habits. This year, I’m concentrating more on my approach at the plate, making sure I’m seeing the ball, swinging at pitches I should swing at and holding off the rest.”

»»» Neil Walker said his back felt fine after playing six innings at second base and going 0 for 3 at the plate, He sat out the previous four games due to tightness in his lower back. If he still feels good tomorrow, he likely will be in the lineup against the Phillies.

»»» Rod Barajas played today, but after the game caught a flight to San Diego so he can be with his wife for the birth of their seventh — seventh!!! — child. If all goes well, Barajas will fly back to Florida on Wednesday, work out Thursday and play Friday against the Phillies. Tuesday is the first of two off days for the Pirates this spring.

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