Kevin Gorman: Pirates cross fingers for top prospects
Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows shared the same spotlight for the Pirates two years apart, as the organization's top prospect by " Baseball America".
They wore a different type of label last year, when Glasnow and Meadows went from fast track to fragile in their own ways.
For Glasnow, it was his psyche, after struggling in 13 starts with the Pirates. For Meadows, it was his body, after a second consecutive injury-plagued season.
Their ascension to the majors was sidetracked, and that spoiled the Pirates' plans to replace Gerrit Cole in the starting rotation with Glasnow and Andrew McCutchen in the outfield with Meadows.
Instead, the Pirates traded for pitcher Joe Musgrove and left fielder Corey Dickerson.
So, this is both an important spring training for Glasnow and Meadows and one packed with less pressure than originally projected.
They are no longer expected to be saviors this season, but both are focused on eventually living up to their potential as premier players.
"What motivates me and drives me is proving it to myself," Glasnow said. "I'm not going to say I don't care about all the expectations that people put on me, but the drive that I have is to do well. I've been like that since I was a little kid, and I think most guys in that clubhouse are the same way."
Meadows certainly is, and has learned not to pay mind to naysayers who wonder if he will live up to being the Pirates' first pick (No. 9 overall) of the 2013 draft.
"As soon as you get caught up in what the fans worry about, it's hard to stay focused on what really matters," Meadows said. "Having Twitter, you're going to see that kind of stuff. I try to block it out as much as I can. I try to go out there and do as best as I can on the field. I know the player I am.
"Worrying about myself is kind of the thing that I've learned — not from a selfish standpoint but in terms of taking care of your business because you know things are going to happen in your future."
As for the present, Glasnow and Meadows are having strong spring training showings so far.
That's big for the Bucs.
Glasnow believes his start last season — he went 2-7, with a 7.69 ERA, and almost as many walks (44) as strikeouts (56) — was more mechanical than mental.
After being sent down to Triple-A Indianapolis, Glasnow ditched his windup and other changes he had made and his command and velocity returned. He went 9-2, with a 1.93 ERA and 140 strikeouts to 32 walks.
"That adjustment was probably a little too hard to make in the big leagues, trying to do it every five days," Glasnow said. "I went down and fixed it physically and took care of it mentally.
"I don't think being a perfectionist and baseball mix very well. It's such a game of failure that the sooner I realize that and the sooner I realize I'm not always going to feel perfect, then it's all about just going out and competing."
This spring, Glasnow has eight strikeouts and no walks but has allowed two home runs. With Musgrove sidelined with shoulder discomfort, Glasnow is trying to win a spot in the rotation.
"I want to be consistent every time I pitch, so they can have faith in me and I can have faith in myself," Glasnow said. "Deep down, confidence has never been a thing. When you go to the big leagues and you struggle a lot, that can mess with your confidence a bit. But I've always believed in myself and never had a doubt."
Meadows also is having a strong spring, batting .600 (6 for 10) with two doubles, a triple and a home run. He addressed the hamstring injuries that bothered him the past two seasons with a weight-training regimen focused on strengthening his back, legs and core.
Meadows, however, appears ticketed to start the season in Triple-A and must prove he can stay consistent and healthy.
"I've always been hungry for this year, and I'm going to keep my eyes on this year," he said. "I know there's a plan in place. I want to make the big leagues this year, and I'm going to do everything I can to get there."
Both Glasnow and Meadows believe they are better for having faced adversity, even if it tripped up their timelines to the majors.
"I'd be lying to say it wasn't tough, obviously, going through that last year and the years previous," Meadows said. "But I just see it as an opportunity to grow. You're going to have adversity. I'd rather hit the adversity early in my career.
"I'm still young, and I know I have a bright future ahead of me. Learning from all those injuries has put me in a better spot now. Everything happens for a reason, and I believe the best is yet to come."'
The Pirates are keeping their fingers crossed.
Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.