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Pirates notebook: Glasnow ready to apply lessons in 2017 debut

| Sunday, April 9, 2017, 7:51 p.m.

The Pirates don't want to see a lot of baserunners Monday night when Tyler Glasnow makes his 2017 debut against the Cincinnati Reds at PNC Park. But a little traffic might be good for him in his development.

Controlling the opponent's running game has been a problem for Glasnow, and it was a key focus of his offseason and spring work.

In only 23 13 innings for the Pirates last season, all nine steal attempts against Glasnow were successful.

At 6-foot-8, his pitching mechanics are a little more complicated than someone shorter, but he said it's improving.

“Last year, I was so long on mechanics when guys were on, it was easy to steal. I just wasn't quick to home,” he said. “Solidifying the shoulder, (getting) more compact, that helped me.”

Glasnow, 23, was scheduled to pitch Saturday, but the rainout in Boston on Thursday delayed the start to his season.

He hopes to incorporate the changeup in his pitch repertoire this season after throwing it only 1.6 percent of the time with the Pirates.

He said he doesn't watch himself on video often, but he does depend on pitching coach Ray Searage to watch his back — and the rest of his body.

“I have a lot of trust in him,” Glasnow said. “I can go out on the mound and think more execution, and if something's wrong, he'll let me know.”

Cole and Chris

After opening the season with Francisco Cervelli behind the plate, Gerrit Cole was reunited with catcher Chris Stewart on Sunday in the 6-5 victory against the Atlanta Braves.

The two have enjoyed success in the past, but Cole struggled in his 50th career start at PNC Park, allowing three runs and eight hits (two home runs) in six innings.

The Braves' Dansby Swanson homered on Cole's third pitch (95.8 mph). Before the end of the first inning, two singles and a stolen base put Cole in a 2-0 hole. Then, in the fifth, Freddie Freeman hit his first of two home runs.

Cole's finest moment was a 97.9 mph four-seam fastball — his 98th and final pitch — that struck out leadoff hitter Ender Inciarte with runners in scoring position in the sixth.

“He did a nice, blue-collar job out there for us to keep us in the game,” manager Clint Hurdle said.

Was that a balk?

Before he hit his walk-off home run, Starling Marte was picked off first base by Braves starter Julio Teheran in the sixth inning.

“It's so difficult,” Marte said of Teheran's pickoff move. “I think it's a balk. He has been doing this for a while. He's so difficult to steal.”

Hurdle was happy to see Teheran leave after seven innings.

“Any other option after he was taken out was going to be better for us because he was tough hitting today,” Hurdle said.

“He's got a very good balk move that continues to play well for him. He's a good pitcher.”

Don't forget Williams

Lost in the extra-inning victory were the two scoreless innings by starter-turned-reliever Trevor Williams in the eighth and ninth. He was the last of the Pirates relief pitchers to get in a game. At one point, he struck out three in a row, including Freeman.

“I'm just glad I can help the team win in any way,” said Williams, who hasn't been a regular relief pitcher since his freshman year at Arizona State. “I'm glad they trust me to get outs in the big-league level.

“I was getting a little antsy (to pitch). I know my role. I know I'm not going to come in in save situations. We have great bullpen arms who do that.”

Stewart ‘healthy ... anxious'

Stewart missed much of spring training after knee surgery last September and a groin injury last month, but he said before the game, “I'm healthy and strong, anxious.”

The inactivity bothered him, he said.

“The tediousness got to me a little bit, but I plowed through and got strong. It's tough watching. I started to get the itch to go back out there and play with the guys. But I knew it was a smart move.

“I feel like I'm in the best shape of my life.”

No choice

Stewart has been a catcher throughout most of his 11-year career, but he didn't start out playing the position by choice.

“I couldn't play anywhere else,” he said. “Not too much speed to play in the field, couldn't really hit to play first base or a corner outfield spot,” he said.

When the coaches at Canyon Springs (Calif.) High School asked if he wanted to catch, he said no.

“They said, ‘You're going to catch, anyway,' ” he said.

Kingham on mend

Nick Kingham sprained his ankle near the end of spring training. After the ankle heals, it will take a while for Kingham to be built up before he's ready to join the rotation at Triple-A Indianapolis.

“The challenge with Nick is that he hadn't gotten to five innings or 90 pitches when he rolled the ankle, so there is some build-up time,” general manager Neal Huntington said. “So, it's going to be every bit of April and maybe even some of May before we get him out and get him going.”

Splitting time at third

David Freese will get the bulk of the playing time at third base during Jung Ho Kang's absence. Josh Harrison and Adam Frazier also will get some time at that spot.

“We feel very comfortable David can (take) a huge part of the workload over there,” Huntington said. “It's as much about how much Clint (Hurdle) uses and feels about the matchups with Adam, Josh and David.

Polanco's passport

The Pirates are “still working through” getting a valid passport for Gregory Polanco, Huntington said. The issue prevented Polanco from traveling to Montreal for the two preseason exhibition games against the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Pirates will play an interleague series in Toronto in mid-August. Huntington said he expects Polanco's situation will be resolved by then.

Outfield adjustments

There have been a few shaky defensive plays with the new outfield alignment of Polanco in left, Marte in center and Andrew McCutchen in right. Huntington is not concerned it's anything that will linger.

“We're showing the typical adjustment period coming north (from spring training),” Huntington said. “We play very few night games in spring training, and when we do, the lights are completely different.”

The outfielders also might be bothered by the LED lights on the new videoboard in right field.

“The LED lights might have an impact, as they are a different look than our guys are used to,” Huntington said. “We've had a few challenges, but we feel these guys are going to adjust quickly.”

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib. Rob Biertempfel contributed to this story.

Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Tyler Glasnow talks with Josh Bell in the dugout during a game against the Braves Sunday, April 9, 2017, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole talks with catcher Chris Stewart during a game against the Braves Sunday, April 9, 2017, at PNC Park.
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