INDIANAPOLIS — Tyler Glasnow needed two innings to get himself pointed in the right direction after being optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis.
Now, he might be close to getting near the finish line and returning to the Pirates.
Glasnow’s statistics have been impressive, but are nearly identical to what he did during his time with the Indians last season. He has a 1.61 ERA and 1.01 WHIP in 10 starts with Indianapolis this season, compared to a 1.87 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in 20 starts at the Triple-A level last year.
But this is a different Glasnow away from his pitching line, somebody who seems more relaxed, confident, and comfortable with his recent performances. And that could translate to better success when he returns to the major league level.
“It seems like he’s freed up mentally,” Indianapolis manager Andy Barkett said. “He’s very relaxed. I’m not sure if he was stressed when he first got here, being sent down, but he seems in a good spot mentally, very relaxed, he’s able to execute and do his thing.”
Confidence wasn’t an issue at the major league level, Glasnow said, despite posting a 7.45 ERA and 1.91 WHIP in 12 starts with the Pirates. But he admits his success with Indianapolis created an added level of confidence, though, not because of his statistics.
“The biggest thing for me is a physical change, which led to obviously more mental comfort,” Glasnow said. “I think even at the beginning of the year was the best I felt mentally even though I was doing really bad at the big leagues. I think that’s what has helped me come down here and do well.”
Glasnow pitched out of the windup in the first inning of his first start at Norfolk after being optioned to Indianapolis, but converted to throwing from the stretch in the second inning. His velocity increased and his command has continually improved during his time in Indianapolis.
He’s not going back now.
“No, I’ll stick with (the stretch) for a while,” Glasnow said. “In the windup I always felt like it was extra movements for no reason. I don’t really need to create any more momentum in my delivery, so it’s just shortening the moves and being quick has been my biggest thing. I think that was my problem even in the minor leagues, switching from windup to the stretch, I felt like I had two different deliveries. I think being more athletic in the stretch has been way easier for me.”
Along with the mechanical adjustment of pitching from the stretch, Glasnow is learning how to throw pitches that will not only work at the Triple-A level, but also at the major league levels.
The success Glasnow is building goes beyond the numbers he is putting together. One example: Glasnow threw 7 shutout innings and didn’t walk anyone on July 14. A lot has been made about the walks Glasnow has thrown over the past two seasons, but the decrease in those free passes isn’t what is impressing general manager Neal Huntington the most.
“What for me was most encouraging was hearing Tyler say he lost his breaking ball, and he went out and not only competed but did extremely well without his second-best pitch,” Huntington previously told Pirates reporters, including Alan Saunders. “He’s made some mechanical adjustments and approach adjustments. He’s aggressive. He feels like he’s in a better spot.”
That “spot” entails Glasnow being able to throw pitches that will get major league hitters out, not just Triple-A hitters out, which he’s accomplished for some time now.
“He’s realizing that the 57-foot breaking ball that a Triple-A hitter chases, a major league hitter is less likely to chase that,” Huntington said. “So, the breaking ball needs to get a little bit more distance and it can drop out of the zone for chase, but it needs to be a major league caliber chase.
“A fastball that is well above the zone and one that is just above the top of the zone, those are two very different pitches. A Triple-A hitter chases the one well above because it’s velocity that he can’t catch. A major league hitter lays off that.”
The fastball velocity has increased ever since Glasnow started to pitch exclusively out of the stretch, consistently sitting mid- to high-90s throughout his outings. He’s hit 100 MPH numerous times, as early as the first inning.
“I have to respect that fastball, but I also have to know he has that breaking ball and changeup,” Barkett said of his approach if he was at-bat against Glasnow. “He threw some really good changeups (on Friday), in 2-2 counts, 1-1 counts and even in counts where it’s tough time throwing a changeup; and he’s throwing them for strikes in the bottom of the zone. I would be ready for the fastball, but also know he has several weapons. It’s hard to be aggressive with a guy like that.”
Glasnow has never complained about being optioned back to Indianapolis, and has admitted he wasn’t pitching well enough to remain with the Pirates. He’s taken to improving himself during his time in Triple-A, knowing an end goal is likely not too far away.
“I’m just sticking with the process, knowing at any point I could go back up,” Glasnow said. “I’m just trying to take it like a big league start, trying to recreate those emotions and trying to recreate the situations I guess and try to keep everything consistent.”
One would find few reasons why Glasnow needs to be in Triple-A for too much longer, with roster expansions just a few weeks away.
“I want to go up sooner than that,” Glasnow said. “I think I’ve been pitching pretty well. I don’t know if I’ve answered anything, but I feel like I’m pitching well.”
In the meantime, Glasnow can only continue to put together solid start on top of another solid start. He’s only allowed one earned run or less in seven of his last eight starts, while allowing one walk in each of his last three starts.
“The consistency and the ability to repeat some of those things and the ability to put it all together, that’s the next step for us,” Huntington said.
Glasnow is putting up impressive numbers, that’s easy to tell. But he seems in a good place mentally, something noticed by Barkett and teammates. Glasnow is confident in how he’s pitching and the results he’s getting — those that show up in a pitching line and others that don’t.
The Pirates do have options in Triple-A if they need a pitcher, with Steven Brault and Nick Kingham throwing extremely well. But Glasnow’s name is right there and his time to get another chance at the major league level might occur soon if he continues the consistency shown recently.