Pirate pinched

MIKE RUTSEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:33 AM ET

A day-long drizzle wiped out the Blue Jays-Pirates exhibition game at Bradenton, Fla., yesterday, but it meant not a whit to Jason Bay.

The kid from Trail, B.C. -- the National League's surprise rookie of the year in 2004 -- wasn't going to play, anyway.

The day before, in a game against the Cincinnati Reds, Bay made a diving attempt at a ball near the left-field foul line, rolled over on his left wrist and caused enough damage to make general manager Dave Littlefield's heart skip a beat.

But tests late Tuesday night showed the injury to be nothing more than a deep bone bruise. That in itself could prove to be a talisman of joy for Pirates fans, as last year Bay opened the season on the disabled list while recuperating from off-season surgery to his right shoulder and, once back, went on to enjoy his socko season.

Deja vu all over again?

"I just have some bleeding in the bone and some swelling in the back of my hand," Bay reported yesterday. "My wrist is fine. It's just the back of my hand (from the swelling) makes it tough for me to squeeze and grab things again."

Bay said it will be at least a week before the swelling comes down and after that it will be pretty much how much pain he is willing to deal with.

"It's my catching hand, so it's not really that big a deal," he added. "It's my bottom hand (he bats right). I've just got to be able to hold on to (the bat)."

Bay, however, probably is being optimistic and it's doubtful the Pirates will rush the process.

Bay won the rookie vote going away when in 120 games he hit .282 (116-for-411) with 26 homers and 82 RBIs. Incredibly, for a franchise that started in 1900, he became the first Pirates player to win the award.

Nobody predicted the degree of his success, but Bay seems to have taken it all in stride.

"It didn't change me at all," he said of his whirlwind year. "I got married and we bought a new house and moved to Arizona and got on with my life and that's about it.

"It was a little bit to take in (the attention) at first, but it's better than having no one caring."

All in all it has been a pretty heady year for the Pittsburgh faithful and star rookies, what with Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger becoming a deity this past NFL season.

Bay laughed when asked if the two sat side-by-side at autograph tables, which line would be bigger.

"Definitely at Ben's," he said.


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