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Pirates minor league notebook: McPherson looking for quality in quantity

| Sunday, April 7, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Christopher Horner
Kyle McPherson, shown during spring training Feb. 25, 2013, is ranked as the Pirates' seventh-best prospect by Baseball America.

INDIANAPOLIS — Kyle McPherson had high hopes of being Pittsburgh's fifth starter when spring training started but lost that competition to Jeff Locke.

The decision stung McPherson at first, but he didn't let that emotion linger.

“You just really try not to let it affect you because you still have work to do,” he said. “I just brushed it off my shoulder and put my nose back to the grindstone. I'm going to keep pushing forward.”

McPherson, ranked as the Pirates' seventh-best prospect according to Baseball America, finished the spring with an 8.46 ERA and 1.57 WHIP over six starts. Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said at the time of the decision to choose Locke that McPherson has “major league caliber” pitches but lacked consistency.

“I have complete confidence in all of my pitches,” McPherson said. “It's just the tendency to lose the quality of pitch and continue to execute time and time again. It's just something I have to continue to work on.”

While he had “high hopes” of breaking spring training with the Pirates, McPherson said there are plenty of positives upon which to build.

First, he's healthy. McPherson opened last season on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation. Once healthy, he made a quick rise to the Pirates, combining to make 12 starts in Double-A Altoona and Indianapolis, striking out 63, walking nine and posting a 0.98 ERA in three starts with the Indians.

“It's been a roller-coaster,” McPherson said. “I missed quite a bit of time last year but got some starts (at Altoona) and was able to refine some stuff, then I got the call up to Triple-A, and I continued to progress and then fortunately got the call up to Pittsburgh. It's where I want to be.”

McPherson has one theme to his development.

“Right now it's focusing on quality of pitch from the first inning to the last and don't take pitches off,” McPherson said. “I need to key in on what the mechanics of the body are doing and what you need to be thinking about to continue to execute that pitch, regardless of what pitch that may be.”

New to the organization, new to coaching

Mike Pagliarulo has an established baseball pedigree after playing 11 years with five major league teams and spending the past 17 years managing iScouts Inc., an international scouting service.

Now he's “coming full circle” by joining the Pirates organization as the Indianapolis hitting coach.

“I want to listen and to share my experience the best way I can in a language that we can all communicate in, and that's definitely not English, but it's the language of baseball and competitive sports,” Pagliarulo said. “I want to do that on a daily basis and be here for these guys whenever they need. Support them but also be very honest with them.”

Pagliarulo is willing to arrive at the park at any hour necessary, Indy outfielder Jerry Sands said.

“He's a high-energy guy,” Sands said. “He's already made it very clear he is willing to do whatever it takes to get us to the level that we want to be at.”

Wanting power at all levels

Sands, acquired in a December trade with Boston, has shown the ability to put up big power numbers at the Triple-A level.

Producing at that level in the majors has been a problem but not for a lack of trying.

As a member of the Dodgers organization, Sands had 29 home runs and 88 RBI in 94 games with Albuquerque in 2011. He was then called up by the Dodgers and had four home runs and 26 RBI in 61 games.

In 2012, Sands had 26 home runs and 107 RBI in 119 games with Albuquerque. He again was called up but had just one RBI and no home runs in nine games.

His swing has been tinkered with constantly since his initial call-up with the Dodgers in 2011.

“Last year I want to say I had three or four times where it was full swing reconstruction,” Sands said. “I wasn't very successful (with the Dodgers), so they thought it was something with my swing. Toward the end of the (2012) I finally said I need to be comfortable and we can tweak from there. I just went back to the main focus of that swing where I knew what I was doing and knew where I had to be, and we did small tweaks from there. It was the swing I had before I got called up and went to big leagues.”

Pagliarulo said Sands is a “big, strong kid,” that can hit for power to all fields.

“If a guy moves around and has all of these instructions, it's not easy,” Pagliarulo said. “I just want to give a clear message based on the principles on hitting, something that is not mine but passed down from me.”

Inge begins season as DH

Brandon Inge began the season as the Indians' designated hitter and was hit by a pitch in his first at-bat.

Inge, a utility player, was placed on the 15-day disabled list by the Pirates with a shoulder injury, retroactive to March 26.

Solid rotation of prospects

The future of the Pirates' starting rotation may reside in Indianapolis with No. 1 prospect Gerrit Cole, No. 7 McPherson and No. 13 Andy Oliver working as the Indians' top starters.

Oliver threw six scoreless innings and allowed two hits in Indy's season-opening loss to Columbus.

Brian Peloza is a freelance writer.

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