By Chris Adamski
BRADENTON, Fla. — Repeat after me: Spring training statistics don’t matter. Everyone will tell you that.
OK, now that that’s out of the way… let’s start to panic about why Tyler Glasnow’s statistics are so bad.
He’s pitched in four games (one of them does not count in his “official” stats that you will see because it was not a Grapefruit League game and was a *true* exhibition – don’t let Rob Manfred hear you calling all the other March games “exhibitions”).
His line in those four games combined: 8 2/3 innings, 15 hits, 12 runs (all earned), seven walks, nine strikeouts. That’s good for a 12.46 ERA, 2.19 WHIP, .455 opponent batting average and 1.29 K/BB ratio.
That’s not good. Even accounting for the small sample size and for the – again – fact that it is only spring training, it’s certainly alarming that a pitcher who is so highly regarded (he’d been a top-20 MLB prospect and Pirates’ top-3 prospect in both 2015 and ’16) is having so much trouble.
Couple it with the problems he had in his four major-league starts last season and it’s a bit unnerving.
Most of all, though, Glasnow’s fragile confidence is what’s most telling. He just seems, well, off. Even his I’m-thinking-about-things-too-much explanation for a balk he committed in Monday’s loss to the Braves in Orlando: “I was in the middle of the slide step, so I was already in the middle of going forward, I should have just thrown it. I was in the middle of the delivery.”
Then, here’s manager Clint Hurdle’s reaction to a question about the balk, one in which the reporter gave him every opportunity to brush it aside: “You can’t just say it didn’t happen. That’s part of his game awareness. There’s work to be done there. Because he will tell you if he has an opportunity like that again, you step off the rubber right there. You turn and you get an out. You don’t, (then) you balk, you move the guy up, you give up the run. So that’s part of his game awareness. I think he’s making strides in shortening up his delivery at times when it’s appropriate. I think he’s found a way to make his feet and hands work well as far as throwing over. So I think there’s some areas he’s developed.”
In the bigger picture, Glasnow almost exclusively and repeatedly kept coming back to Monday’s directive from pitching coach Ray Searage to only throw fastballs when behind in the count. Though I never got a chance to ask Searage what the exact rationale behind this was, it’s a logical assumption it was to help Glasnow avoid a meltdown like he had in his prior outing against the Dominicans last Wednesday when he walked four batters before retiring anybody in his third inning of work and got pulled.
Then this outing, while throwing fastballs, he at least was finding the plate (only one walk) – but it was four consecutive hits that did him in.
Either way, not being able to get any hitters out? That’s, um, a problem. It’s almost pick your poison – and Glasnow was palpably annoyed he had no recourse Monday but to throw his 94-mph fastball.
Hurdle, it could be interpreted, didn’t take too well to the assertion that Glasnow was conveying the idea that his hands were tied:
“Ray wanted him to go in there with a gameplan to follow. And the gameplan was fine for two innings – so now when the gameplan doesn’t work, where do you go with that? Do you point the finger at Ray for the gameplan or do you look at the execution of the pitches and where they ended up? I know what we’re looking at. We haven’t been result-oriented with any pitcher or any player out here at spring training. We’re looking for execution, we’re looking for pace and rhythm on the mound. We’re looking for an ability to follow that glove and dot the ball with downhill angle and throw some low strikes. So he’s got some work to do.”
Earlier in his postgame comments, Hurdle in response to question about Glasnow following orders: “Well, Ray wanted him to use his fastball as long as he was behind in the counts; once he got ahead in the counts he could go to breaking stuff. So first two innings, everything was fine. Ball got elevated in the third inning — and they didn’t miss it. I think it was five shots at getting out of the inning: a walk and four consecutive hits. So there is work still to be done. We saw some good things the first two innings and when you get better location in the third inning and we weren’t able to do that.”
And just in case you think Hurdle was just flame-throwing his young precocious righty, don’t. He came out in defense of him when some dummy asked Hurdle a question seeming to paint Glasnow in a negative light:
“I think you guys (in the media) need to also revisit what you’re writing about him and what we’re talking about. He pitched in Triple-A (last season), and nobody is getting on base; he pitches up here and people are getting on base. Guys are better hitters and there’s better lineups. So that evolution and that development and that curve is a challenge for any young pitcher. We need to continue to work with him and challenge him to continue to find ways to get out of innings with quick contact. The counts also picked up and got lengthy – he still had every opportunity to get a quick ground ball — those are things he’s still working to do. There’s better hitters up here though; the breaking ball has got to be sharp and there’s got to be more depth to it. Fastball has got to have some late life and then I saw him moving the ball around the first two innings but when the ball is elevated up here it’s hard for anyone to pitch. And I think he was set on 94 (mph) – that’s nothing that’s going to rearrange anyone’s mindset at the plate. He’s just got some work to do. We like him and like a lot of the things he does, but he’s just got some more work to do.”
Anyway… Glasnow is still very young. And very, very talented. It’s far, far, FAR from time to give up on him or even hit any panic buttons in that general vicinity. But it seems that his chances of winning a spot in the 2017 opening day rotation have evaporated. And would have thought that all last April and May when everyone was crushing the Pirates for not calling him up?
>>> “Head to the beach. Relax” – Clint Hurdle
Tuesday is the first off day for the Pirates since Grapefruit League play began Feb. 25. It’ll also be the first scheduled off day from any formal activity or mandatory appearances for the pitchers and catchers for a month straight since they reported on Valentine’s Day.
>>> You want links? I’ve got links:
“He’s making himself valuable to Clint, to be on the team and to help us win games.”
“None of them did anything to deserve getting sent out of camp. It just became a matter of innings.”
“Do you point the finger at Ray for the gameplan? Or do you look at the execution of the pitches and where they ended up? “
>>> Wednesday’s game: Orioles (10-6 heading into Tuesday’s game) at Pirates (12-5), 1:05 p.m., LECOM Park, Bradenton. Webcast: pirates.com
Orioles: Lineup TBA. RHP Ubaldo Jimenez
Pirates: Lineup TBA. RHP Jameson Taillon
Also pitching for Pirates: LH Antonio Bastardo, RH Jared Hughes, RH Juan Nicasio.
>>> Thursday’s game: Pirates at Red Sox (7-10 heading into Tuesday’s game), 6:05 p.m., JetBlue Park at Fenway South, Fort Myers, Fla. Webcast: pirates.com
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.