Minor league report: Glasnow evolving into complete starter
COLUMBUS — Standing near the third-base dugout railing at Huntington Park on Tuesday, Triple-A Indianapolis manager Dean Treanor gushed over Tyler Glasnow’s outing two starts back.
On the road in Pawtucket (R.I.), Glasnow allowed two runs over six innings, striking out six and walking three. But his pitch action was what wowed Treanor.
“That was the best I’ve seen him,” Treanor said. “He was getting a lot of swing and misses with his curveball and he was starting in a good spot.”
Those details were news to the guy on the mound.
“Pawtucket? I think I did pretty bad in Pawtucket,” said Glasnow, asked about the start.
Even with all the swings and misses?
“Against Boston? Yeah that was kind of a bad start,” Glasnow said.
Glasnow is the Pirates’ No. 1 prospect, per MLB.com and Baseball America, and largely has lived up to the hype. As of Friday, the 6-foot-8 right-hander was fourth in the International League with a 2.04 ERA and tied for the league lead with 77 strikeouts. He had taken just one loss since the middle of April.
Many of those starts haven’t been perfect. Including a Monday start in Columbus, Glasnow had walked two or more hitters in six straight starts. In his first 12 starts, just one went seven innings, the product of rising pitch counts.
Those thoughts and criticisms have crossed Glasnow’s mind, and in many cases, like in detailing a win in Pawtucket, he is the first to bring them to light. In the past, he said he let those thoughts creep deeper into his mind.
“I think my biggest thing is I’m way too hard on myself. That’s been my setback ever since I could remember,” Glasnow said. “I get too hard on myself, instead of just realizing that you’re not always going to have your best stuff, and just going out and trying to get the best what I have. As this season has been going on and as I’ve been pitching more, it’s feeling a lot better.”
Take the Monday night win over Columbus, for example. It was evident to Treanor early in the 5 1⁄3-inning, three-hit, one-run start that Glasnow’s curveball was not what it had been in Pawtucket on May 27.
“Has was yanking some, was not as consistent with it and was not getting the same swing and misses on it,” Treanor said. “I think he had like five strikeouts (Monday) and that’s not the norm for him.”
So he adapted. Glasnow got outs with his changeup and mid-to-high 90s fastball, winning with stuff neither Treanor nor Glasnow considered the right-hander’s best. Both view the on-the-fly adjustments a sign of growth.
For Glasnow, the focus has become rolling with what he does have in a given start as opposed to dwelling on what he doesn’t.
“I think early in my career I would sit there and focus on how to get back to normal, instead of trying to compete with what I had that day,’” Glasnow said. “It’s easier now for me to get in the mindset of, ‘OK, today’s not such a great day, but I’m going to compete with what I have.’ I’ve had a lot of really good starts, and I’ve been competing with what I have.”
Glasnow has long shown an ability to get hitters out. A 2.39 ERA in 2015 was Glasnow’s highest in his first three full minor league seasons.
The difference, said catcher Jacob Stallings, who has caught Glasnow for two-plus seasons, is he is more consistent about believing he can get those outs on a start-to-start basis.
“In A-ball and even a little bit in Double-A, if he didn’t have his best stuff, mentally he didn’t think he could get guys out. This year, I think he’s realized, ‘OK, I can still make quality pitches. Even if I don’t have my best stuff, I can still give the team five, six, seven good innings,’” Stallings said. “I would say if that’s not the biggest thing he’s improved on, it’s close to it.”
The fact he has navigated that transformation makes it easy to forget Glasnow, who was drafted by the Pirates in the fifth round of the 2011 draft, hasn’t yet celebrated his 23rd birthday.
“He’s had all these lofty (expectations) — ranked real high and all that stuff — and then you kind of expect him to go out and be a top prospect every time he’s out there,” Stallings said. “He’s such a perfectionist, and it’s funny, he’s been so dominant every year I’ve caught him that it doesn’t feel like he’s 22 years old.”
Treanor said this year for Glasnow is an exercise in increasing the spin rate on his curveball and becoming more efficient with his pitch count, things he will want locked down when he heads to Pittsburgh full-time.
As he did for Jameson Taillon, who recently made his Pirates debut, and fellow Triple-A starter Chad Kuhl, Treanor used the word “when.”
“The stuff, I mean, the stuff plays,” Treanor said. “And it’s going to play at the next level.”