Bucs' Glasnow fans 11 in latest Indy gem

Top Pirates prospect sets Triple-A high in strikeouts in six-inning start

Tyler Glasnow has posted a 2.09 ERA over his five Minor League seasons in the Pirates system. (Adam Pintar/Indianapolis Indians)

By Sam Dykstra / MiLB.com | April 26, 2016 6:40 PM

Blake Snell got the call last Saturday. Aaron Blair came one day later. Jose Berrios will debut Wednesday.

There's a pipeline of top prospects heading from the International League to the Majors in the last week, and even if Tyler Glasnow isn't actively talking about making that step, he's certainly pitching like the guy next in line.

The Pirates' top prospect struck out 11 while allowing just two hits and a walk over six innings as Triple-A Indianapolis defeated Durham, 9-0, at Durham Bulls Athletic Park on Tuesday.

The 11 strikeouts marked the first time in 12 career starts at the level that Glasnow had hit double-digits in the category in a single start. Glasnow fanned a pair of Bulls in every inning but the fifth. With 30 strikeouts in 21 innings this season, his 12.9 strikeouts per nine innings leads all Triple-A hurlers, ahead of Dodgers prospect Julio Urias' 12.0 mark for Oklahoma City.

"It felt good to reach that," he said of Tuesday's Triple-A high. "I just went out like a normal start, really. That wasn't the goal to strike out so many, really. But if you're out there hitting your spots, trying to get ground balls, trying to get outs, that's what happens."

Perhaps the pitch most responsible for the 11 K's was Glasnow's changeup, an offering that's consistently rated below his mid-to-high-90's fastball and his plus curveball. The 22-year-old right-hander felt the pitch was the most consistent it's been through the first month of the season, and he could see the results early Tuesday.

"I think it's just repetition," he said of the work that goes into improving the changeup. "It's something I throw 89-90-91, and with a fastball around 93-97 like it was today, that can play. The biggest thing about the changeup is I worry about its velocity. But every time I threw it today, I felt like I got some really good changeup reactions, and that helps my confidence with it."

As impressive as the 11 punchouts were, perhaps equally impressive was Glasnow's ability to keep the Bulls off the basepaths. The three baserunners allowed ties his low mark at the Triple-A level for an outing that lasted at least six frames and showed an improvement over his April 21 start in Louisville, when he surrendered four earned runs on six hits and three walks in just five innings.

As a pitcher who has averaged a pedestrian 4.1 walks per nine innings in his Minor League career, Glasnow has faced concerns about his control ever since he was taken in the fifth round of the 2011 Draft. The California native, however, believes he's identified and corrected a mechanical flaw.

"I've just been coming out of [my delivery] too early," he said. "Sometimes when I'm trying to make things nastier later in an at-bat or something, I'll rip open so I have to stay within myself a little more. The sooner I can learn it's happening in a start, the quicker I can make an adjustment back. It's times like this early in the season when I just kind of realize what's going wrong, and recognizing those things early is a huge help."

If there is more work to be on Glasnow's game, it's in controlling the running game. Even though only two Bulls reached base against the Indians starter, two of three tried to steal second base immediately after getting to first. Jake Goebbert was caught stealing after singling in the third while Nick Franklin got a great jump on a theft after walking in the fourth. Double-A and Triple-A baserunners were 21-for-24 on stolen base attempts against Glasnow in 2015, and that success rate had a lot to do with taking advantage of the 6-foot-8 hurler's long mechanics. Franklin's steal was the first successful one in three attempts against Glasnow in 2016, and the Pirates prospect has vowed to make controlling the running game a priority in what could be his final Minor League season.

"You change up looks, pickoffs, and, yeah, throw in some quick stuff here and there," Glasnow said. "It's having the confidence to hold up the ball, not let the runner feel comfortable while not feeling rushed yourself. That's been a focus, especially this year."

With Thursday's string of zeros, Glasnow improved to 1-1 with a 2.57 ERA and 1.05 WHIP through his first four starts of the 2016 season. In 12 Triple-A starts dating back to last season, he owns a 2.32 ERA and 1.24 WHIP with 78 strikeouts over 62 innings.

It's likely that the Bucs won't consider Glasnow until after Super Two arbitration concerns go away in mid-June. But with the way prospects are being called up recently and with Jeff Locke struggling in the Majors with a 5.03 ERA, it's worth asking Pittsburgh's top prospect if he's considered what it'd be like to get the Major League call soon. The answer: he hasn't.

"Honestly, you may not believe me, but I don't think about it too much," he said. "The Pirates do such a good job of calling young guys up when they're ready, and that's something where I have zero control of it anyway. You look at our Indy pitching staff, and it's pretty crazy. So I'm sure there will be a lot of call-ups, a lot of starting pitchers that move up this year. Obviously, I really want to get up there, but I'll let them handle it."

The Indians made Tuesday's contest into laugher with homers by Willy Garcia, Pedro Florimon, Alen Hanson and the rehabbing Jung Ho Kang in a seven-run ninth inning. Kang finished 2-for-5 with the homer and three RBIs in his first multi-hit performance during a six-game rehab stint at Triple-A.

Sam Dykstra is a reporter for MiLB.com. Follow and interact with him on Twitter, @SamDykstraMiLB. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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