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Bucs pitching prospect Moskos progressing

| Sunday, July 25, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS — It's not quite Sam Bowie and Michael Jordan, but for some Pirates fans, it still stings.

In 2007, the Pirates took hard-throwing lefty Daniel Moskos out of Clemson with the fourth overall selection. With the next pick, Baltimore took catcher Matt Wieters, who became the Orioles' starting catcher last season and is regarded as one of baseball's top young talents.

Moskos, who entered this season with an 18-17 minor-league record, has heard the Wieters comparisons — many times.

And, Moskos said, he doesn't care.

"I don't even pay attention to it," said Moskos, 24. "I've played against Matt. He's a good kid and a very good player. I'm sure a lot of teams would love to have him in their organization. It's not his fault. It's not my fault. It's not us making those decisions."

That draft decision, long criticized in Pittsburgh, may have taken a more optimistic tone this year due to Moskos' performance at Double-A Altoona. Moskos saved 17 games with a 1.45 ERA before his June 26th promotion to Triple-A Indianapolis. His fastball has jumped from the 89-to-92 range a year ago to 92-96 mph. His slider is a bit harder, and his changeup is keeping hitters off balance.

Moskos, who was used as a starter in his first three years of pro ball, was put in the bullpen to start this season. Pirates director of player development Kyle Stark said he likes to have pitchers begin as starters for development purposes, but he added that Moskos' ideal role was always going to be as a reliever.

At Indianapolis, Moskos is not yet the closer. That distinction falls to Jean Machi. Indianapolis pitching coach Dean Treanor, who coached Moskos at Altoona a year ago, said the plan is to first let Moskos focus on specific aspects of pitching — such as command of the strike zone.

And command has been an issue at times for Moskos, who carried an ERA under 3.00 into Wednesday's game against Lehigh Valley before he walked three hitters and was roughed up for four runs in one-third of an inning in a 12-8 loss.

"Any pitcher will tell you that getting ahead makes the game a whole lot easier," Moskos said.

The numbers back up his statement. When Moskos has fallen behind Triple-A hitters, he's given up eight hits and walked nine. When he's gotten ahead of batters, he's allowed one hit, struck out five and walked none.

"At this level, it's about gaining experience," Treanor said. "(Wednesday) was a big learning experience. I just don't want a lot of learning experiences to where he's the smartest guy around."

At a shade over 6-foot, Moskos is compared to other smallish, hard-throwing lefty relievers such as Braves closer Billy Wagner. And Moskos said he eventually sees himself in the closer role.

"Being a guy that's a competitor, you almost prefer pitching in tight situations like that as opposed to pitching with a big lead," he said. "That's part of the fun for me. The game's on the line, and you're the guy on the mound."

Stark isn't yet calling Moskos the Pirates' future closer.

"So much of that role is earned and comes down to makeup that may or may not be demonstrated in the minor leagues," Stark said. "We hope that he continues to develop to the point that he can pitch meaningful innings in a major-league bullpen and see what happens from there.

"Danny has endured the pressures and challenges of being a No. 1 pick, especially one that was not very popular. There is something to be said for overcoming that adversity."

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