Moving on up, as we look at the Pirates’ minor league pitchers….
Aaron Pribanic – R/R, 6′ 4″, 200 lb
Pribanic came to the Pirates in July 2009, as a part of the trade with the Mariners for Jack Wilson and Ian Snell. He was assigned to West Virginia, where he made 6 starts and one relief appearance to finish the season, earning a 4-2 record and a 2.15 ERA. He didn’t walk many 5 (1.2 walks/ 9 innings), but didn’t strike out many either (18, 4.3 K/ 9 innings). Pribanic was promoted to A+ Bradenton to begin 2010, and he spent the whole season there. He was a starter for the whole season, making 27 appearances, and earning a 7-6 record with an overall 3.33 ERA. He began the season slowly, with 4 starts in April, in which he gave up a total of 12 earned runs in 17 innings (6.35 ERA). May was a little better, with 18 earned runs in 33.1 innings (6 starts), for a 4.86 ERA. He gave up 11 runs in his first three starts in June, but by the second half of the month, things were beginning to turn around. Pribanic gave up 4 runs over his last three starts in June (21 innings). July was even better: 5 earned runs in 30 innings for a 1.50 ERA. Pribanic finished up the season with 8 runs in 44.2 innings (1.61 ERA) in August/September. Again in 2010, he did not walk many (33, 1.9 walks/ 9 innings) and did not strikeout many (71, 4.2 K/ 9 innings). Pribanic was assigned to the Arizona Fall League, where he made 11 appearances, all in relief, for the Mesa Solar Sox. He threw 18 innings and allowed 4 earned runs on 18 hits (2.00 ERA), with 6 walks and 9 strikeouts. The low strikeout rate has been attributed to Pribanic not having particularly strong breaking pitches. He does get a lot of ground ball outs, though, which explains why he can allow 157 hits in 154 innings and still give up “only” 57 runs. Pribanic needs to work more on those breaking pitches, as the Pirates would really like to see more strikeouts. He should begin 2011, at age 24, as a starter for AA Altoona.
Brian Leach — R/R, 6′ 3″, 195 lb
Leach was chosen by the Pirates in the 25th round of the 2008 draft. He pitched as both a starter and a reliever in his first two seasons in the Pirates’ organization, but in 2010, Leach pitched almost exclusively as a starter, with just 2 relief appearances. He was promoted to Bradenton for the season, and like Pribanic, he got off to a slow start, leading the Marauders in earned runs (15) and walks (16) for the month of April, when he made one relief appearance and four starts, for 20.2 innings, for a 6.53 ERA. He cut back on the walks in May (9), and did a little better with runs, for a 4.70 ERA in 23 innings. Leach too turned things around in June, when he allowed 7 runs in 30 innings (2.10 ERA), with 7 walks. That ballooned up to a 4.75 ERA in July, though he kept the walks down to 6, and slid back to 3.26 ERA in August/Sept, with 9 walks. Overall, Leach earned a 9-9 record and a 3.85 ERA, with 144 hits in 138 innings. He walked 44 (2.9 walks/ 9 innings), and struck out 98 (6.4 K/ 9 innings). Leach also participated in the Arizona Fall League after the regular season. He made 10 relief appearances for the Mesa Solar Sox, and while he allowed 11 hits and 7 walks in his 10 innings, he did not allow a run. Leach has been somewhat on-again-off-again with his control — it was better during the second half of the regular season, and not so great during the AFL. He needs to work on that in 2011, when at age 25, he should be joining Pribanic in the Altoona starting rotation.
The Arizona Fall League wrapped up with the Championship Game on Saturday. The Scottsdale Scorpions beat the Peoria Javelinas 3-2. Each team posted 7 hits, with RF Adam Loewen (Blue Jays) going 3-for-3 for the Javelinas. Loewen’s first single contributed to the Javelina’s first run in the top of the 2nd, but the Scorpions came back with 2 runs in the bottom of the inning, which included an RBI single by RF Bryce Harper (Nationals). Loewen also singled in Peoria’s 4th run rally, when they tied the score at 2-2. Scottsdale took the lead again in the bottom of the frame, with a pair of doubles. Starter Sammy Solis (Nationals) earned the win for Scottsdale with 4 innings of work, and reliever Cole Kimball (Nationals) earned the save.
The Mesa Solar Sox played their second-to-last game on Wednesday, losing to Scottsdale by a score of 6-0. The Solar Sox were held to just 3 hits. 2B Josh Harrison had one of them — a double to lead off the 4th inning. CF Kirk Nieuwenhuis (Mets) and 1B Josh Satin (Mets) each had a single. Harrison was the first Mesa player to reach base in the game, after they went down in order for the first 3 innings. But he was left on base when Scottsdale’s Josh Collmenter (Diamondbacks) struck out the next three batters. Nieuwenhuis singled and stole second base in the 5th, but the other three batters in that inning struck out too. Satin singled in the 8th, but was left on base. The Solar Sox had their best chance in the 7th inning, when with one out, DH Matt Rizzotti (Phillies) reached base on a fielding error and RF Andrew Lambo walked (the only walk for the Solar Sox. But C Tony Sanchez bounced into a force out, and a line out ended the inning.
Peoria Javelinas 8, Mesa Solar Sox 7
With four more games to play, the Solar Sox are teetering on the edge of being eliminated from the Arizona Fall League playoffs. If they lose any one of their remaining games, they will not be able to catch up to the Scottsdale Scorpions.
Tonight, a 5-run 7th inning gave the Javelinas the win, and it happened with Aaron Pribanic on the mound. Pribanic relieved Jacob Diekman (Phillies) to begin the bottom of the 7th. The inning began with a single, then a pop out. A double scored one run, then a single and a fielding error by 2B Josh Harrison added a second run. The next three batters each brought in a run: an RBI double, a fielder’s choice, and a throwing error by SS Andrew Romine (Angels). Pribanic walked another batter, and then was relieved by Steven Geltz (Angels), who ended the inning with a strikeout. The 5 runs gave the Javelinas an 8-6 lead, and the Solar Sox could not catch up.
Peoria was the first onto the scoreboard, with a run on a double and a single in the bottom of the 2nd, charged to Mesa starter Robert Carson (Mets). Chris Carpenter (Cubs) pitched the 4th inning, and he also allowed a run on a double and a single. Kyle Smit (Cubs) pitched a scoreless 5th, then Diekman gave up a run in the 6th on a triple and an RBI ground out.
The Solar Sox took the lead in the 3rd inning, when they scored 2 runs. Josh Harrison led off the frame with a walk, then stole second base. He moved to third on a ground out, and scored on a wild pitch. 3B Josh Vitters (Cubs) also walked and stole second base, and he scored on LF John Tolisano’s (Blue Jays) single. Doubles were the hit of choice in the 4th inning. RF Andrew Lambo led off with a single, then doubles by C Kai Gronauer (Mets), Harrison, and Romine accounted for 3 runs. A walk and another RBI single by Tolisano gave the Solar Sox a 6-2 lead. Tolisano collected his third RBI single in the 8th inning, driving in Romine, who had doubled. Lambo, Gonauer, and Harrison all singled to load the bases in the 9th, but the threat ended with a grounder force out. DH Jordy Mercer had one hit in his 5 plate appearances, a single in the 7th inning.
The Solar Sox and the Arizona Fall League have Sunday off, as usual.
Mesa Solar Sox� 7,� Surprise Rafters� 5
Isn’t this what every hitter dreams about?� A grand slam in the bottom of the 9th, to win the game for your team!� The Solar Sox went into the bottom of the 9th behind by a score of 5-1.� 2B Josh Harrison led off the inning with a walk, and another walk to 3B Brandon Wood (Angels) and a single by 1B Matt Rizzotti (Phillies) brought in one run.� CF Kirk Nieuwenhuis grounded to third, and was safe on the fielder’s choice as Wood scored.� Rizzotti was replaced by pinch-runner Ryan Flaherty (Cubs), and a single by SS Jordy Mercer loaded the bases for RF Andrew Lambo. Lambo made the dream come true with a walk-off grand slam and the win for the Solar Sox.
Nieuwenhuis gave Mesa their first run on a solo homer in the 7th.� Mercer had also singled in the 2nd inning, but was erased when Lambo bounced into a double play.
Justin Wilson made the start for the Solar Sox and pitched 3 innings, allowing 2 runs on 2 hits and 4 walks with 3 strikeouts.� Three of the walks plus a single gave Surprise one run in the 1st inning.� Another walk, a ground out, and an RBI single brought in a run in the 3rd inning.� Aaron Pribanic relieved Wilson, pitching the next 3 innings.� He worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the 4th, ending the inning with a timely strikeout.� He gave up a single in the 5th, but that runner was thrown out trying to steal second.� In the 6th, Pribanic gave up 2 more singles, but left both runners stranded.
Ryan Brasier (Angels) retired the side in order for the Solar Sox in the 7th.� BJ Rosenberg (Phillies) gave up 3 runs to the Rafters in the 8th.� He allowed a lead-off homer, then two more runs on a pair of walks, and a pair of singles.� Chris Kissock (Phillies) pitched the top of the 9th, allowing one single.� He was the pitcher of record when the Solar Sox rallied in the bottom of the inning, so he earned the win.
Mesa Solar Sox� 13,� Surprise Rafters� 5
The Solar Sox started and ended the game with a bang on Friday afternoon in Arizona.� They plated 5 runs in the top of the 1st, and 4 in the top of the 9th, with 2 more in both the 2nd and 5th innings, as they recorded 16 hits.� The Sox’ pitchers held the Rafters to 7 hits.
The top of the 1st began with a double by 2B Jordany Valdespin (Mets) and a single by 3B Josh Harrison, which moved Valdespin to third base.� CF Jeremy Moore’s (Angels) sacrifice fly brought in Valdespin.� DH Brandon Wood (Angels) lined a single into right field, where the Rafters’ right fielder made a throwing error.� That let Harrison score and put Wood on second base.� C Tony Sanchez walked, and RF/CF Kirk Nieuwenhuis (Mets) doubled, scoring Wood.� SS Jordy Mercer bounced back to the mound, and the runners had to hold.� Then 1B Josh Satin (Mets) lined another single into right field, and both Sanchez and Nieuwenhuis scored, though Satin was thrown out trying to reach second base on the throw in to the plate.
The Rafters scored one run in the bottom of the inning on a double, a ground out, and a sacrifice fly, making the score 5-1.� Mesa came right back to add 2 runs in the 2nd, again sparked by Valedspin and Harrison.� This time it was Valdespin who singled and Harrison who doubled (ground rule).� A fielder’s choice and a throwing error by Surprise 1B Eric Hosmer (Team USA and Royals) allowed both runners to score.
Surprise continued to battle, scoring a run in the 3rd on a walk, a stolen base, and an RBI single.� A walk, a triple, and a single gave them 2 more runs in the 4th, and the score was 7 – 4 with the Solar Sox still ahead.� The Solar Sox got 2 runs back in the 5th.� Sanchez and Nieuwenhuisled off the inning with a pair of doubles, and Mercer followed with a single, then stole second base.� LF Tim Kennelly’s ground out drove in Nieuwenhuis, to give the Sox a 9-4 lead.
Pitchers took over for the next several innings.� Aaron Pribanic pitched the 6th and 7th innings for Mesa, and he allowed the only two base runners over 4 innings for Surprise.� A single in the 6th was erased by a double play, and a walk in the 7th was left on base.� Harrison had the only hit for the Solar Sox, a single to lead off the 6th.