Kyle McPherson started the season on the disabled list after suffering right shoulder inflammation during spring training. The right-hander, who was slated to join Triple-A in 2012, instead was sent to Double-A after finally getting healthy in June. In his first three starts last month, McPherson struggled, posting a 4.76 ERA in those outings. He has been working to get back on track in July, allowing nine earned over 21.1 innings with just two walks to 30 strikeouts.
“I feel the stuff is there right now,” McPherson, the Pirates Minor League Pitcher of the Year last season, said. “Depending on one or two runs here in an outing are dictated by one pitch. I still feel the stuff is there even though the inning total might not be where it should be of course if it wasn’t injured. All and all, it’s still working, but at the same time the stuff is still there outing after outing and that’s not anything I’m worried about.”
“He’s really just hitting mid-May,” Manager P.J. Forbes said because of his DL set back. “He’s had numerous bumps and bruises on his way back. You hope each start gets a little bit better. He’s a battler, he’s a grinder. In five, six days from now he’ll be back out there trying to get it right. ”
The right-hander was looking to continue to work his way back with eighth start of the season on Saturday. McPherson collected two strikeouts in a perfect first inning, but his lucked turned the rest of his outing.
The defense behind McPherson let him down in the next frame. The right-hander got a routine grounder to second base, but Jarek Cunningham bobbled the ball for an error to allow the runner to reach first. The next batter hit a single up the middle. The error proved to be costly after McPherson gave up a double ripped down the third base line to plate two runs (one earned). A single into shallow right field was next for the third straight hit in the inning before the Curve were able to get the runner attempting to swipe home plate for the first out. McPherson continued to have an unlucky inning as the next batter drilled a single off the left calf of the right-hander.
McPherson was able to escape the inning without it spiraling out of control, which is a good sign for the right-hander. Pitching coach Jeff Johnson said that McPherson struggled earlier in the season with not being able to escape the bad inning.
“He’s been really good for the most part, it’s been just a bad inning,” Johnson said.
McPherson tossed a scoreless third after retiring his first two batters. New Hampshire dropped in back-to-back hits into shallow outfield. McPherson was able to leave the runners stranded with a groundout to third.
The unlucky night continued for McPherson in the fourth. With one out, he took a liner off his right triceps for a base hit. After getting a groundout to push the runner to second, his next batter connected for a fly out to deep center field. Quincy Latimore took a bad route to the ball as it rolled up to the wall for an RBI triple.
“It was just one of those outings, really,” McPherson said. “I felt like my stuff was good overall. I felt the fastball I could move in and out. The changeup was an effective pitch for me tonight. Earlier in the game the breaking ball was there. It was just one of those outings. Balls just found holes and you just try to do the best you can and limit the damage in the best way.”
“I think there’s been a lot of talk on the ability for him to do that, his delivery has to be right,” Forbes said of McPherson getting back on track. “Some games it is. Tonight, I didn’t feel like it was.”
After the game, McPherson was limping in the clubhouse due to taking the liners off his left calf and right triceps in the game.
“It’s pretty sore. It’s tightening up pretty good right now,” McPherson said. The right triceps, he said, felt the same. Both injuries affected his pitching on the mound and was pulled after just five frames.
“Yeah, of course,” he said on whether it affected his outing. “Being the landing leg with the calf muscle, It’s pretty painful to try to pitch through. It was something I knew that I could do and I still tried to do the best I could to keep the team in the ballgame.”
“He’s a battler,” Manager P.J. Forbes said. “I asked him after he took the one off the triceps if he had enough. He said, ‘No.’ He’s a competitor. No one wants to come out after taking a line drive.”
Overall, McPherson allowed three runs (two earned) on eight hits over four frames. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out two while throwing 76 pitches, 54 strikes.
Nathan Baker followed from the bullpen and allowed two runs over two innings. The lefty started his outing with a caught looking and induced two groundouts to finish a scoreless fifth. In his second inning of work, Baker gave up a leadoff single. The runner scored after a triple was ripped just fair of the first base line. His next batter hit a chopper up the middle to plate the second run. Baker retired his next three straight to end his outing.
Since moving into the bullpen, Baker has allowed eight earned runs over 24.0 innings (3.00 ERA) with 22 strikeouts and eight walks.
Adalberto Santos was leading the Eastern League with a .396 average when he went down with a knee injury in late April that forced him to miss all of May and June. The injury was unfortunate timing for the outfielder in his first season at Double-A. Santos was sent to Bradenton, Florida for treatment and rehab before rejoining the club in July.
Santos sustained the injury on a plate at home plate in Erie.
“My leg kind of got caught underneath the catcher and I tried to pop up and injured my MCL,” Santos said. “It was just sprained, no surgery or anything. I’m great now.”
“It was kind of [frustrating] because I don’t like to not play,” Santos said of missing playing time with the injury. “It was tough being down in Florida and just sitting around and hearing my teammates do well and wishing I was being a part of it. But it also gives you time to get away from the game and realize how much you miss it and how much you love it. Gives you motivation to get back. Being back has been great. I’m having fun with the team again.”
Since returning from the disabled list, Santos has been on an offensive tear. Santos entered game action with a .378 average in 15 games. During that span he hit his first two long balls at the Double-A level while driving in nine runs.
“My first week, my timing was off,” Santos said. “I was a little frustrated from that because I wanted to jump back in get back to where I was. I’ve been working with [Altoona hitting coach Ryan Long], looking at some video. The last couple weeks of games I’ve been getting back to my swing and feeling comfortable in the box now. It hasn’t been an easy transition but it’s been a good one.”
The right fielder doesn’t have prototypical corner outfield power. But what he does bring to the table is getting on base. Santos finished the 2011 season with a high average — .314 with a .398 on base percentage. So far this season, Santos has a .487 OBP with nine stolen bases and is showing great plate discipline with 18 walks to 14 strikeouts.
“I try to play to the strengths of my game,” Santos said. “I’d love to hit 30 home runs, but I kind of know I’m not going to. I just know they go when they go. I want to get on base, steal bases, hit doubles, get on for the big guys — Quincy, Curry and them who can drive it out the park. I just play my game. Get on base, no matter if it’s a walk, a base hit, and go from there.”