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Prospect Allie enjoying game again

| Saturday, March 23, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates prospect Stetson Allie takes batting practice at minor league camp on March 8, 2013, at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla.

BRADENTON, Fla. — Now that Stetson Allie is off the mound, baseball is fun again.

When the Pirates drafted Allie with their second pick in 2010, they envisioned him becoming a middle-of-the-rotation starter or perhaps a closer. They gave the right-hander a $2.25 million bonus, which was well over slot.

But it quickly became clear Allie had no future as a pitcher. Hoping to recoup something from their investment, the Pirates last year converted Allie to an infielder.

“For me, having fun is the biggest thing,” Allie said as he prepped for a game in minor league camp at Pirate City. “When I'm having fun, I'm at my best. As a pitcher, there were a few times I had fun. But as a hitter, I feel like I enjoy it every day.”

The original Plan B for Allie was to make him a third baseman, which is where he played part time in high school. However, Allie now is playing first base, which is less demanding defensively.

“It's been ... not necessarily easy but relaxing,” Allie said. “I can focus on the hitting aspect first, and on the field I just have to catch the ball, really. Any double play where I have to make a throw doesn't happen that much at first base.”

After his position change, Allie appeared in 42 games in rookie ball last summer. He batted .213 with three homers, 19 RBI and a .314 on-base percentage.

“My athleticism is still there,” Allie said. “Being a pitcher before made me smarter as a hitter. Other than that, I'm the same guy.”

As a pitcher, Allie played in just 17 games over his first two seasons in the minors.

“I just want to be productive as a hitter,” he said. “I want to play a full season and stay healthy because I've never played a full season. I just want to have fun with it. If I have fun, then I'll be good.”

Allie will get a chance this season to try out his new role in “A” ball. Two other infielders who are better bets to reach the majors also will be at that level this summer.

Shortstop Alen Hanson, 20, will play for High-A Bradenton. Second baseman Dilson Herrera, 19, will be at Low-A West Virginia.

“I understand now that it's a process and I need to continue to work hard,” Hanson said through an interpreter. “I understand that people are aware that I could be a star in the making. If I can keep my head level, I'll be successful. I'll become a superstar in the big leagues.”

Hanson collected 16 homers and 62 RBI last year at West Virginia. He also has speed, as evidenced by his 35 stolen bases.

The only question about Hanson is whether he can handle the defensive demands at short. He made 40 errors last year, most of them throwing miscues.

“I would look at runners as they were going to first base, then hesitate before I threw,” Hanson said. “That's why I threw so many balls away. I understand what the problem is. I feel a lot more comfortable now, and I think I can get the job done.”

Hanson came to Instructional League last fall but didn't play in many games. He spent most of his time on defensive drills.

Herrera also focused on his defense.

“I worked on turning double plays,” Herrera said through an interpreter. “At the beginning of last season, I had a little problem with the pivot. After working on it in Instructional League, I feel more comfortable.”

Herrera was signed in July 2010 after being discovered by scout Rene Gayo. He initially was projected as a shortstop.

“Since I've been here in the states, I think the Pirates have a better understanding that I'm going to be a five-tool player at second base,” Herrera said. “I feel a lot more comfortable now that I know I'm playing just one position.”

In 53 games in rookie ball, Herrera hit .281 with seven homers and a .341 OBP.

“I'm a gap-to-gap hitter,” Herrera said. “I've been able to make solid contact, lift the ball and hit more home runs that maybe a normal second baseman.”

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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