BRADENTON — There was no watershed moment, no singular occurrence that turned Brandon Moss into the person he is.
He’s just a happy guy.
“That’s just me,” Moss said. “I play a game for a living. I come to the park every day happy with what I do. I’ve got an opportunity to play Major League Baseball, so I don’t see any reason to be upset about that.”
The Pittsburgh Pirates acquired Moss from the Boston Red Sox as a part of a three-team deal last July, hoping they were getting a corner outfielder for the future.
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What they also got was a positive presence in the clubhouse. Moss’ value will be judged by what he does between the white lines, of course, but it doesn’t hurt having his upbeat personality permeating a clubhouse over the grind of a 162-game season.
“He’s a good person, a good teammate, and he always seems to be in a good mood,” manager John Russell said. “And it reflects in the way he plays — he loves to play.”
These days, he’s loving it a little more than most. He underwent successful knee surgery in October, and the thumb injury he suffered March 7 in Fort Myers was nothing more than a bad bruise.
Initially, it appeared Moss may miss Opening Day.
“I thought I had broken it,” he said. “I was a little worried. ... I was a little freaked out. But then you just pray and hope everything turns out good.”
His thumb and knee no longer a concern, Moss can now focus on the spring. For the first time in his big-league career, he comes into camp with a chance to find himself in the lineup when the regular season begins April 6.
Moss made the Red Sox out of spring training last year and batted .295 in 34 games. He made history by hitting his first major-league home run in Japan, marking the first time in team history a player homered in regular-season game outside the United States or Canada.
Even though he reported to Bradenton as a front-runner to win the starting job in right field, Moss still finds himself in battle mode. Consequently, he wants to improve on the .138 batting average after he went 0-for-2, scored a run and drove in a run during the Pirates’ 4-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday.
“People are saying, ‘Oh, it’s spring training. Don’t worry about it,’” he said. “But the good thing is I’ve made some adjustments in my swing, and I’m seeing some of the rewards of it.”
He’s striking out less — just three times in 29 at-bats after striking out 45 times in 45 games with Pittsburgh last summer — and hitting better when behind in the count.
“I’m seeing the ball much better, and I think that’s going to be a huge difference,” he said. “I would love to be getting some hits right now, just to feel like I’m earning a spot. I know people say don’t worry about, it’s not numbers — just go out and do the best you can.
“It is a numbers game. I don’t want any doubts.”
What won’t change, however, will be his approach.
And most importantly, his mood.
“I’m smiling all the time, and I’m happy all the time — I can’t really help that,” Moss said. “I can put on a frown, but it’s not going to be a real one.”