Pirates' minor league call-ups perform well
By Rob Biertempfel
Published: Monday, Aug. 12, 2013, 10:42 p.m.
DENVER — In any of the past 20 seasons, solid outings by Pirates rookies such as Vic Black, Brandon Cumpton and Tony Sanchez would have counted as little more than on-the-job training.
This year, however, is different. The Pirates have counted on clutch plays and spot starts from unexpected sources, even while posting one of the best records in the majors,
“It's something special,” Black said. “To be a part of that ... it's nerve-racking, but it also gets the blood pumping a little bit more than normal. It's an important time in Pirates history, so to be considered a valuable asset and someone who can help out is something I take great pride in.”
Black was called up from Triple-A Indianapolis to help round out the bullpen while Jared Hughes recovered from a shoulder injury. Black was with the Pirates for a short time and pitched four innings.
It wasn't a shock that Black got a chance to pitch in the majors. He's on the 40-man roster and was impressive during spring training. Black might've been called up sooner if not for an oblique injury that shut him down in late May.
Cumpton's arrival, was surprising. He was not on the 40-man roster at the start of the season and made only a handful of starts for Indy before being called up to make a spot start June 15.
“Coming out of spring, I think he was 13th on our starting pitcher depth chart,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “You trust the people who you work with, and they've been confident about Brandon's improvement since he joined us.”
Cumpton got a no-decision in his debut, pitching against the Los Angeles Dodgers in place of injured A.J. Burnett.
On July 30, Cumpton got a spot start in the second game of a doubleheader against the St. Louis Cardinals and picked up his first victory. The win catapulted the Pirates into first place in the NL Central, and they've been on top since.
“They told me before I went out there this was going to be the biggest game of my life so far,” Cumpton said after holding the Cardinals to three hits in seven innings. “Between each outing, the nerves are starting to settle down a little bit more. It's been easier, but it's still what you dream about. You still have some anxiety.”
Fellow rookie Sanchez was Cumpton's catcher against the Cardinals. Although Sanchez had already played a couple of games in the big leagues — he was the designated hitter twice during a brief call-up in June — the Cardinals game was his first time behind the plate with the Pirates.
“It was unbelievable,” Sanchez said. “I couldn't have asked for a better first night. Do you know how hard it is to sweep a doubleheader against the Cardinals? I'm back there thinking, ‘Well, let's see if my good is good enough.' I don't even care that I went 0 for 3 (at the plate). I caught a shutout and we got a win.”
Sanchez became the seventh Pirates catcher to work a shutout in his first game behind the plate. He said had no trouble fitting in after being called up from the minors.
“We're all pulling for each other,” Sanchez said. “They've welcomed me with open arms, like I'm the newest member of the family. Granted, I'm the runt of the litter; I still feel like I'm part of the family.”
When Sanchez made his first, quick stint with the Pirates in June, Black still was pitching out of Indy's bullpen. Black also watched from afar as Cumpton made his spot starts. Hearing their stories of what it's like in the majors was fuel for Black to get there.
“They come back (to Indy), and you love the fact that they had success,” Black said. “But when they come back, you almost don't want to hear all of it because there's that anxiousness to get there yourself to experience it and taste it.”
Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pirates should exploit free-swinging Brewers
- Pirates notebook: Tabata OK’d to return to play
- Patience pays off as starting pitcher Volquez gets 1st win for Pirates
- Pirates notebook: Walker’s razor a right-handed swing solution
- Breaking down Thursday’s Pirates-Brewers game