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Major expectations for top Pirates prospect Glasnow

| Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016, 8:27 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitching prospect Tyler Glasnow says he is hungry for a promotion to the major leagues.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Tyler Glasnow talks with catcher Reese McGuire before practice Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016, at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitching prospect Tyler Glasnow walks to the fields during the first work-out for pitchers and catchers Friday, Feb. 19, 2016, at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitching prospect Tyler Glasnow throws in the bullpen Friday, Feb. 19, 2016, at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitching prospect Tyler Glasnow works out in the bullpen Friday, Feb. 19, 2016, at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla.

BRADENTON, Fla. — Unlike big league ball players, minor leaguers do not get $100 a day in meal money on the road. And the postgame clubhouse spreads in the minors usually arrive in paper bags with plenty of napkins.

Once in a while, the food won't be fried. Occasionally, it will include a vegetable that isn't ketchup. More often than not, it will be pizza.

What pitcher Tyler Glasnow craves, though, is a salad.

“It's hard, when all you have is PB&J and corn dogs all day,” Glasnow said. “I don't like eating that stuff. It's easier in Triple-A and even easier, I'm assuming, in Pittsburgh.”

It won't be long before Glasnow, the Pirates' top prospect, can fill his plate from a major league menu.

“Hopefully, there will be some good food,” he said, laughing.

Glasnow, 22, has dominated at every level of the minors so far and will begin this season at Triple-A Indianapolis. But, barring an injury or some other setback, the right-hander almost certainly will make his big league debut sometime this year.

Standing on the doorstep of the majors, Glasnow is arguably the Pirates' most important prospect since Andrew McCutchen. The hype doesn't seem to faze Glasnow.

“I have my own expectations,” Glasnow said. “I like to set goals for myself, and whether it's in Pittsburgh or Indy, I'm going to try to do as well as I can.”

Some outside evaluators argued last summer that Glasnow was ready for the big leagues. When A.J. Burnett was hobbled and Jeff Locke struggled in the second half of the season, the Pirates' front office mulled the move.

“We had legitimate discussions about (calling up) Tyler last year,” general manager Neal Huntington said. “Ultimately, we felt it was in his and our best interest to continue the development and command of the fastball, the consistency of his breaking ball, the ability to throw it for a strike and for a chase, and to develop the changeup (at Indy).”

After being added to the 40-man roster over the winter, Glasnow is in big league spring training camp. He will make a start or two in the Grapefruit League then will be sent down to minor league camp.

It's the same spot Gerrit Cole was at in 2013, when he made 12 starts for Indy before being called up in June.

“It's an exciting time in your career,” Cole said. “You're always anxious, you're always trying to impress everybody. You know you're good, but you're trying to validate it. It's tough to not listen to the outside noise. Tyler's gotten to this point because he's prepared and he's earned it, so this is just the next step for him moving forward.”

Locke and Ryan Vogelsong likely will fill the fourth and fifth spots in the starting rotation on Opening Day. The Pirates are rated as playoff contenders, but their rotation might need a boost by midseason.

Locke has overhauled his delivery after struggling the past couple of seasons, but there's no guarantee he can rebound. Vogelsong will turn 39 in July and has lost much of the zip on his fastball.

Why not put Glasnow in the majors to start the season? Although he has pitched in 81 games in the minors, only eight of them were in Triple-A. Pitching coach Ray Searage points out Cole's stuff was more advanced than Glasnow's at the same stage of their minor league careers.

Another reason is baseball's economics. If they keep Glasnow in the minors until at least mid-June, the Pirates can stall his arbitration-eligibility clock from ticking.

“It's just the way it is,” Cole said with a shrug. “When you look back at it two or three years into your career, it didn't have a significant impact, in terms of my development. It's actually better; you kind of light a fire under somebody. And he gets an opportunity to fine-tune his routine.”

Glasnow already knows how to miss bats and suffocate opponents. He racked up 136 strikeouts in 109 13 innings last year, tops among Pirates minor leaguers. He was charged with either one or no earned runs in seven of his eight starts for Indy and in 15 of 22 overall.

There remain some rough edges to polish — an improved changeup, a sharper curveball, a better job controlling baserunners. Also, dealing with the pressure of being the second-best righty prospect in baseball (according to Jim Callis of MLB.com) will give Glasnow an idea of how to handle the even bigger stresses in the majors.

“The distractions multiply, and they come from all over,” Cole said. “You've got big league fields, hotels, different travel all across the country, your family's barking at you, you're trying to perform, you don't know where the bullpen is in Milwaukee ...”

Cole chuckled then turned serious again as he glanced across the clubhouse at Glasnow.

“It's not the easiest thing for him to deal with at this point,” Cole said. “But if he can overcome it and stay focused — which I think we all know he will — he can use that process throughout his career.”

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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