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Pirates reliever gets kick out of hobby

Rob Biertempfel
| Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012, 6:30 p.m.
Pirates pitcher Kyle McPherson will start against the Brewers on Wednesday.
(Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review)
Christopher Horner
Pirates pitcher Kyle McPherson will start against the Brewers on Wednesday. (Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review)

Adding Kyle McPherson to the roster at the end of August has made the Pirates' pitching staff deeper. The right-hander is working out of the bullpen after being used as a starter in the minors.

McPherson makes the staff a lot tougher, too. How many other teams can boast a pitcher who owns two black belts?

McPherson, 24, began studying Taekwondo when he was 5 years old, and three years later earned his black belt. He competed at the state and regional levels through his senior year of high school and along the way picked up another black belt and also worked as an instructor.

“I guess it came from watching too much ‘Walker, Texas Ranger, ‘ “ McPherson said with a laugh, referring to the TV series starring martial arts tough guy Chuck Norris. “I started training and I really took to it. It's always been something I can do to stay in shape during the (baseball) offseason.”

Lately, McPherson has been studying Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, a form of ground fighting that incorporates submission holds and chokes. The Marine Corps teaches the discipline at its Officer Candidates School in Quantico, Va. The Army has incorporated elements of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu into its hand-to-hand combat training manual.

“It's some intense training,” McPherson said. “You have to be very physical because it incorporates a lot of ground movement as well as stand-up technique. You get a total body warmup. Even the warmups are a workout in themselves.”

McPherson isn't sure if he'll try to reach black-belt status in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

“That's a tough one,” he said. “You've really got to put in your time. I'm comfortable with where I am now, training with it.”

Upon further review ...

After the Pirates made seven errors Friday, rainy weather prevented them from doing extra fielding drills Saturday. But manager Clint Hurdle had every player involved watch the game film to hopefully learn from the mistakes.

“More often than not, we just didn't keep moving through balls that we should've,” Hurdle said. “We slowed down and didn't get through plays. It's very difficult to recreate those situations in a practice environment. So seeing it and talking it through is as effective a way of coaching people up as anything.”

This was not a special circumstance. The Pirates routinely review their errors as well as their defensive gems.

“It's not for punishment,” Hurdle said. “We show them good stuff, too.”

Planet of the aches

Right-hander Jeff Karstens (hip pointer) threw a bullpen session Saturday and is scheduled to throw a simulated game Tuesday. If all goes well, Karstens might return to the starting rotation next week. ... Neil Walker (lower back stiffness) took batting practice Saturday in the indoor cages and on the field with the rest of the team.

Around the horn

Andrew McCutchen was among nine All-Stars featured in a video aired Friday during the “Stand Up to Cancer” telethon. ... Triple-A Indianapolis catcher Tony Sanchez went on the disabled list due to a broken toe and likely will miss the rest of the postseason.

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 412-320-7811.

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