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One-time Bucs pitching prospect now a promising power hitter

| Saturday, April 12, 2014, 8:30 p.m.

ALTOONA — Not long ago, Stetson Allie was a pitcher.

“If you can call it pitching,” he said.

It really wasn't. Allie had a big, flame-throwing arm. As for the rest of him, he said, “I was a mental midget.”

Or maybe he simply was a hitter inside a pitcher's body. No matter. As a 23-year-old slugging first baseman for Double-A Altoona, Allie offers self-deprecating jokes and candid self-assessments. So much has changed since he walked off the mound and stepped into the batter's box.

“Going through those struggles has helped me be the person I am now,” he said. “I'm excited to see where I've come from and how I've matured over the years.”

In 2010, the Pirates drafted Allie in the second round and gave him a $2.25 million bonus, ninth highest in the draft, even though he pitched just one year in high school.

Earlier, the Pirates took right-hander Jameson Taillon with the No. 2 overall pick. The hard-throwing pair represented a big part of the club's pitching future, and they became fast friends, rooming together the last three offseasons.

On Thursday, Taillon, who has yet to pitch for the Pirates, had Tommy John surgery. Allie went 3 for 5 with a double and an RBI against Richmond.

“From where I started to where I am now, it's kind of funny,” Allie said. “I was talking to Jameson the other day, and he said, ‘Man, did you ever think your career would be like this?' I was like, ‘To be honest, buddy, I didn't, but this is probably one of the happiest spots of my life, where I'm at today.' Everything seems to be falling in place.”

Allie is listed at 6-foot-2, 238 pounds. He actually slimmed down from last year. He's as strong as he looks and has natural tools, Altoona hitting coach Ryan Long said.

“I think I know how to hit,” Allie said.

Said Long, “I don't think people would guess that he's a former pitcher.”

On Tuesday, Allie hit his first home run of the season, a shot to right-center at Altoona's Peoples Natural Gas Field.

“This is my fifth season,” Long said. “I've seen two, maybe three right-handers do that in this ballpark.”

In 2013, Allie clobbered Low Single-A pitching at West Virginia but stumbled at High Single-A Bradenton. He managed to turn even that into a positive.

“I tried to do too much, trying to hit balls 700 feet,” he said. “I learned more than I ever could have (learned) if I tore it up there and then came here and struggled.”

Allie, who hit .414 during his senior year of high school, made the switch in 2012 after opening eyes during a rare batting practice opportunity with Bradenton in the Gulf Coast (rookie) League. He said he “felt more comfortable than I ever did as a pitcher.”

As a pitcher, he was 0-3 with a 7.76 ERA in 17 games in Low A and High A. Wildness was the main issue.

“I was mentally beating myself up,” he said. “I saw these guys hit, and I was, like, ‘Man, I want to do that.' Just to get my mind off my pitching. And when I finally got to take BP, it was like a weight off my chest. I felt more free, like I could have fun again. I felt like an athlete.”

Bob Cohn is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at bcohn@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BCohn_Trib.

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