The Pittsburgh Pirates needed a third catcher for their Gulf Coast League club and they didn’t go far to find one. Garrett Russini, who was a three-year starter at Stetson University, was signed this week as a non-drafted free agent. The Pirates brought Russini to workouts at Pirate City before the draft and it didn’t take long for him to get there, he lives in Bradenton. He will share the catching duties with Yoel Gonzalez and Reggie Cerda, two returning players from the 2014 GCL squad. They will also be joined within a few weeks by Paul Brands, an international signing from the Netherlands this year, who had some visa issues and is currently working out and playing in the Dominican.
Russini had a strong junior year in 2014, but went undrafted. He started 59 of his team’s 60 games and hit .297/.365/.482 in 222 at-bats. His numbers slipped a little this season, hitting .272/.358/.401 in 59 games. Russini is 6’0, 200 pounds, bats lefty and he turned 22 earlier this month, so he is on the young side for a college senior. He also has some experience as an outfielder. Russini has worked out with Mike LaValliere and he is childhood friends with Seth McGarry, the eighth round pick this year of the Pirates, who will also open up his pro career in the GCL.
Russini announced the signing on Twitter and I was told today that he was already with the team as they took on the Blue Jays today in Extended Spring Training, getting ready to open their season on Monday.
Officially a Pittsburgh Pirate! Excited and blessed to have this opportunity!
— Garrett Russini (@GarrettRussini) June 18, 2015
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.