04/07/08 1:16 PM ET
Bixler won't be a spectator
Rookie shortstop could make first start Wednesday
By Jenifer Langosch / MLB.com
Told on Saturday that he would be joining the Pirates, Bixler left the Triple-A Indianapolis club in Pawtucket, R.I., to fly south to Miami.
From there he arrived in Pittsburgh, where, on Monday, he walked into the PNC Park clubhouse for the first time. A few hours later, he was standing on the field for the home opener introductions.
Hopefully all that awe has worn off, because Bixler's not going to be a spectator for very long.
"We're not calling him up to sit here. He'll play," manager John Russell said. "Will he play every day? I'm not sure. But he needs to play."
Though Bixler wasn't in the lineup on Monday, Russell said he will begin slotting him in there periodically until Jack Wilson, who is hampered by a left calf strain, can return to the field. That first Major League start for Bixler could come as early as Wednesday, Russell said.
Luis Rivas has done an adequate job of filling in for Wilson, more so offensively than defensively. He's hit .313 through six games, but has made two errors, at times looking uncomfortable at the position. Rivas is a natural second baseman.
Bixler, on the other hand, is touted as being above-average defensively, but has gotten off to a slow start offensively this season. After doing very little at the plate while with the big league club at Spring Training, Bixler started 0-for-9 at Triple-A.
The 25-year-old infielder, who hit .274 at Triple-A last season, shrugged off any concern that his results won't soon turn around, even with the jump up to another level.
"Those first at-bats, I was still working through things," Bixler said of his Spring Training struggles. "I felt good, but if you don't find green, you don't find green. I kept working on my approach and I felt better."
Russell is not about to write off Bixler's bat.
"He's the one guy when I was managing last year, I went over to [Indianapolis manager] Trent [Jewett] and asked about him," Russell said. "He plays the game hard. You don't see a lot of emotions. He's a good athlete. He's one of the guys that stood out a little bit. I've seen him hit."
Bixler had his first taste of the Majors on Sunday, striking out in a pinch-hit appearance late in the eighth inning. He had arrived at Dolphin Stadium just about 40 minutes before first pitch.
"[There were] a little nerves, but I got that first one under my belt," Bixler said. "I am just excited, real excited."
While Bixler said he feels plenty comfortable also filling in at second base for Freddy Sanchez, if necessary, Russell maintained that he plans to use Bixler solely at his natural shortstop position.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.