Pirates minor league notebook: Top prospect Glasnow cooking at home
BRADENTON, Fla. — The distance between home plate and McKechnie Field's center-field fence is just 400 feet. Sometimes if the wind is blowing just right off the Gulf of Mexico, a strong jet stream swirls in the outfield, rendering the flags stationed high above the batter's eye nearly invisible.
In other words, it's not a pitcher's park. Then again, it is whenever Tyler Glasnow pitches there.
Ranked the Pirates' top prospect by MLB.com, Glasnow has been terrific with the Single-A Bradenton Marauders. But he has been downright dominant at McKechnie Field, the Pirates' spring home since 1969 and the Marauders' ballpark since their first season in 2010.
Following Thursday's start against Jupiter, when he struck out 11 and yielded two singles in six scoreless innings, Glasnow is 6-1 with a 0.96 ERA in 10 starts at McKechnie Field.
The lanky California native, who turns 21 on Aug. 23 and was the Pirates' fifth-round pick in 2011, has struck out 67 in 56 1⁄3 innings inside McKechnie while not allowing a home run.
“Honestly, I just think it might be a coincidence,” said Glasnow, who finished Thursday with a 1.53 ERA, the lowest in the Florida State League.
Glasnow hasn't exactly been terrible on the road, where he is 3-4 with a 2.27 ERA in nine starts. In fact, opponents are hitting worse against Glasnow in their own park (.155) than when they face him at McKechnie (.183).
“It's not like I feel any different than opposed to (pitching) away. I don't know,” Glasnow said. “I'm glad I pitch well here. I'm glad I'm doing well.”
The 6-foot-7 right-hander missed most of spring training and roughly a month of the regular season with a back injury. But once he found his rhythm, the guy who paced all Pirates minor leaguers in strikeouts last season (164) has been as good as advertised. He is 8-2 since the beginning of June while allowing eight earned runs in 67 2⁄3 innings for an ERA of 1.07.
Bradenton pitching coach Justin Meccage said Glasnow has taken strides mentally, as evidenced in an Aug. 1 start against Brevard County when he walked four and allowed two hits in six innings but didn't allow a run.
“That's beautiful, especially in August, when you may not feel great and your stuff isn't great,” Meccage said after the Brevard County game. “It comes down to making pitches when you need to make pitches, and that's what he did.”
Glasnow has struck out 122 in 100 innings this season while walking 51 and limiting opponents to a .171 batting average.
Not missing a beat, or Bell
When the Marauders lost Josh Bell to Double-A Altoona just after the FSL All-Star Game, it appeared their chances of competing in the second half went with him.
Bell was the one big bopper in a lineup that struggled throughout much of the first half, and he still leads the team in myriad offensive categories even though Bradenton has played 24 games since his promotion.
The Marauders, however, have thrived, running their record to 14-10 in those games through Friday's games. Bradenton entered the weekend with a 29-18 record in the second half (64-52 overall), tied with Palm Beach atop the South Division.
“We take that as kind of a chip on our shoulder,” Mt. Lebanon native Jordan Steranka said. “Some of us had to step up and just play better and player harder.”
A healthy Steranka and Jose Osuna, each of whom missed time in the first half with oblique injuries, have helped solidify the middle of Bradenton's order. Each has 40 RBIs in 74 games, and Osuna's .434 slugging percentage is second behind Bell among Marauders who have appeared in at least 30 games.
Home sweet home
The Marauders play 11 of their final 18 games at home, a good omen considering they are 19-8 this half in Bradenton.
John Lembo is a freelance writer.