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Perrotto: Maybe Silver Slugger is Next for Ke’Bryan Hayes

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Ke'Bryan Hayes, Pittsburgh Pirates

Ke’Bryan Hayes is always quick to say he does not put much emphasis on individual awards.

However, the Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman admits he was ecstatic to win the National League Gold Glove at his position. Hayes won the voting in November and talked about it Friday night when PirateFest began at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

“It was awesome, that relief that I finally won one,” Hayes said. “It’s been a big goal of mine to win one in the major leagues. I was fortunate enough to win some in the minor leagues, but I wanted to win one at the highest level. For me, it’s cool.”

Hayes admits his next goal is to win the Platinum Glove, awarded to the best overall defensive player in each league regardless of position.

“It would have been nice to win that too,” Hayes said. “I’ll take the Gold Glove. For me, I don’t really try to think too much on the individual stuff. For me, more importantly, just want to win as a team. Really, after that, it was cool to represent my team, my family, organization, but now it’s, I want to get into the playoffs. Get into October baseball.”

Whether the Pirates can reach the postseason this year for the first time since 2015 remains to be seen, though optimism is high among the players after a 14-win improvement in 2023.

If Hayes hits the way he did during the final four months of last season, it will bolster the Pirates’ postseason hopes. Beginning on May 31, Hayes had a .308 batting average and .867 OPS in his last 72 games with 19 doubles, four triples, 13 home runs and 44 RBIs.

It was Hayes’ best stretch of hitting in the major leagues since he debuted in 2020 with a .376/.442/.682 slash line and five homers in 24 games.

“I felt really good,” Hayes said. “I felt more free at the plate, more aggressive. I feel like I was able to go up there, be an athlete and just hit. It’s what I’ve always done, ever since I was little. I’ve always loved to hit. I just felt like I was back in that space, of being an athlete and being a ballplayer and not thinking too much up there. Ultimately, just being aggressive.”

Hayes played only one game for the Pirates from June 25-July 31 because of lower back inflammation. Back problems also limited him in 2022.

However, Hayes believes he has found ways to keep his back strong.

“I think with the training staff and the guy I work with at home, really, it was just trial and error, for the most part,” Hayes said. “Still, my goal is to be able to play every day. There’s still going to be challenges ahead with that. I feel like I’ve found a good routine, especially this offseason. I’ve had no problems with it at all. I’ve just been feeling really good. My body feels good. Starting to get back into running.”

Hayes also revealed Friday night that he is flatfooted and has bunion issues, which has affected his hitting at times.

“Y’all’ve never seen my feet, but they’re kind of on the rougher end,” Hayes said to a group of reporters. “Just being able to finetune little stuff like that, being more aware of your body from your feet all the way up has been real big for me the last two years. I’ve just been trying to figure out anything, even going down to just my feet, to help me feel great and be out there.”

Pirates manager Derek Shelton campaigned hard for three seasons for Hayes to win the Gold Glove. So, Shelton was happy to see Hayes finally be rewarded.

“My new cause is the Platinum Glove. I think he should have won the Platinum Glove,” Shelton said. “I think he’s the best defender in baseball. Very happy for him. Very well deserved. Like I said numerous nights, we get spoiled watching him, what he does, how he does it. I think now that he’s won the first one it’s a situation where everybody realizes like how good a talent this guy is. So very excited. When they announced it, I had a big smile across my face.”

If Hayes can carry over his strong finish offensively in 2023 to 2024, perhaps he could also win a Silver Slugger Award. That would give Shelton even more to smile about.

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