You can ask Mike Zagurski to come out of the bullpen and strike out the side. Just don't ask him what's been working so well for him lately.
"I'm not sure," he said. "I made a few mechanical adjustments, but nothing big. For some reason, I'm getting a lot more swings and misses than ever before. I don't know where they're coming from, but I'll take 'em."
Zagurski struck out three in 1 1/3 innings of Indianapolis' 8-4 win over Pawtucket on Monday. He's now fanned 34 Triple-A hitters and walked eight in 19 2/3 innings while posting a 2.29 ERA in 2013.
"I'm certainly not going out there thinking, 'OK, I'm going to strike this guy out,'" Zagurski said. "I never look to strike them out if I don't need to. You can't strike a guy out untl you have two strikes on him. I just try to throw good pitches and try to get guys out."
Zagurski (1-0) was orginally drafted by the Phillies in the 12th round of the 2005 Draft. He made eight starts and seventh relief appearances in the short-season New York-Penn League that summer and found a home in the bullpen thereafter.
"I think the bullpen is more suitable for me," he said. "I guess I didn't have stuff to be starter or couldn't go as long as I needed to. The bullpen picked me."
Zagurski made 25 big league appearances with Philadelphia as earlier as 2007 and also chipped in for the Phillies in 2010 and 2011. He was traded to the D-backs in September 2011. He made 45 Major League and six Triple-A appearances last year. During the offseason, he signed a Minor League deal with Pittsburgh.
Playing in the Pirates system has worked out well for him. "I loved my time in Arizona," he said. "It was a great place. At the end of the year, it didn't work out and something good did work out with the Pirates. It's been good here. We've been successful. We've been able to win a lot of games. I've been able to have a lot of great opportunities to pitch in some good ballgames."
On Monday, Zagurski entered in the seventh when a two-out RBI single by Jerry Sands ended the night for Indians starter Brooks Brown (3-0). Zagurski whiffed Red Sox farmhand Dan Butler on three pitches to end the inning. He approached the at-bat one delivery at a time.
"I tried to get him out with [an 0-1] fastball away and he fouled that off," Zagurski said. "I came back with a slider and he swung and missed."
The 30-year-old lefty brought the same approach into the bottom half of the eighth. No. 2 Red Sox prospect Jackie Bradley Jr. reached on second baseman Ivan De Jesus' fielding error to start the inning, then Zagurski got Justin Henry to hit into a fielder's choice. Drew Sutton worked a walk in a seven-pitch at-bat. But Zagurski whiffed Boston No. 7 prospect Bryce Brentz on a called third strike, then got Brandon Snyder swinging.
With such remarkable success through the first two months of the season, Zagurski could be forgiven for thinking about the day when he's given a shot to contribute to the Pittsburgh pitching staff. He's doing no such thing, though.
"You know, I think you've just got to do the job you're paid to do," he said. "Right now I'm paid to get guys out in Triple-A, so that's all I think about doing. If there's a spot up there in the bullpen, and I can be helpful, great, obviously. But that's definitely not what I'm concentrating on."