Yates ready to make instant impact

Yates ready to make instant impact

TAMPA, Fla. -- While everyone around him was pulling out boxes, folding clothes and organizing what was left on the shelves of their lockers in the McKechnie Field clubhouse, Tyler Yates unpacked.

The newest member of the Pirates made the two-hour drive from Lake Buena Vista, Fla., to Bradenton, Fla., for a stay that will last less than 72 hours. The Pirates acquired Yates on Wednesday, parting with prospect Todd Redmond to land the 30-year-old Yates.

While Yates expressed disappointment in having to leave an organization that he had become both familiar with and fond of, he also talked about the chance to come to a club where he could make an immediate impact.

The Pirates have yet to define bullpen roles for all of their relievers, though Yates will be strongly considered to take the reins as the main right-handed setup pitcher.

He's done the job successfully before, and with the Pirates lacking in a defined right-handed setup man, the job is open for the taking.

"Coming here, it looks like I have a great opportunity to have a major role in the bullpen," Yates said. "I'm always eager to be one of the main guys in the bullpen. I think I can handle it. I don't think they would have gone out and gotten me if they didn't think I could.

"I think it's going to be a good career move to be able to go over [here] and get a lot of work."

Said general manager Neal Huntington: "We need to lay our eyes on him. [Pitching coach] Jeff [Andrews] and [manager] John [Russell] will make that determination."

Yates had been expected to play a significant role in the Braves' bullpen this season. He had been used as a setup man in the Atlanta bullpen back in 2006, and at times last season as well.

However, struggles this spring, coupled with the fact that the Braves had a logjam in their bullpen, dictated Atlanta having to move one of their relievers. Whether or not Yates' spring results are a harbinger of things to come is arguably the biggest concern for the Pirates out of the gate.

The righty appeared in nine games for the Braves, pitching eight innings of relief during which he gave up eight earned runs, walked nine and struck out seven.

"This spring was not fun," said Yates, who essentially pitched himself out of a roster spot with Atlanta this spring. "Everybody knows I struggled a lot with my command and it was just a big mechanics flaw."

Yates said that he and Atlanta pitching coach Roger McDowell spent the last month working to clean up a mechanical flaw. It was a work-in-progress for a while, though Yates said that he believes he turned the corner earlier this week.

"A lot of times where I ended up walking hitters, it wasn't like I was all over the place," Yates said. "I just wasn't in the strike zone on certain pitches. But like I said, I felt like I was an inning away or a batter away from clicking. The last two innings, I felt really good on the mound."

He didn't walk a batter and allowed just one hit in scoreless outings on both Monday and Tuesday.

Despite Yates' second-half struggles last season and his slow start this spring, the upside on his potential is what Pirates management is counting on to pay off. Yates throws a fastball that is clocked consistently between 92-97 mph, and has a slider that reaches the plate in the upper 80s.

That's what intrigued Huntington and his staff. "We saw a young arm that we like," the GM said. "He can overpower people."

And it's what Atlanta manager Bobby Cox saw during the first half of the '07 season, when Yates ended the month of June with an ERA of 3.06.

"Tyler has stuff," Cox said. "He can get over the little hump, I think, with them."

Yates went 2-3 with two saves and 69 strikeouts in 66 innings for the Braves last year.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.