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Bay says he will be ready

 (The Spokesman-Review)
Bay (The Spokesman-Review)

BRADENTON, Fla. – Jason Bay was collecting balls in a bucket while his fellow outfielders shagged flies in the hot sun Friday. That was about the extent of his work day.

It might look ominous for the Pittsburgh Pirates that their two-time All-Star outfielder has been so inactive in the early days of spring training, but the team and the player are adamant he will emerge from it healthier.

Bay, who played at Gonzaga University and North Idaho College, is recovering from a minor surgery in November on his left knee.

“No question in my mind, it’s going to be stronger than before,” Bay said. “It already feels better, probably good enough that I could get started if it wasn’t so early in spring training.”

Bay has been running on a treadmill and taking some batting practice, and his next step will be running the bases and fielding.

Bay began running two weeks ago, and said he remains on a comfortable pace to be ready for Pittsburgh’s April 2 opener.

“Not even an issue,” Bay said.

Although Bay appeared in 159 games and hit 35 home runs, he was troubled most of last summer by irritation under his kneecap, which was wrapped in ice after nearly every game in the final two months of the season. He waited until after the birth of his daughter, Addison, on Nov. 19 to have the arthroscopic surgery.

Bay declines to cite the knee as a factor for anything other than his discomfort level last season, but one area it probably affected was his base-running. His doubles decreased from 44 in 2005 to 29 last season, his stolen bases from 21 to 11.

“I just don’t think about it like that,” he said. “I never looked back on last season and thought, ‘I wasn’t trying to steal because of the knee.’ It’s not an excuse. But, obviously, it won’t hurt, either, to have the knee feeling better.”