CHARLESTON, W.VA. – On the surface, West Virginia Power starting pitcher Travis MacGregor’s April 12 start at Hickory has been the lone blip on an otherwise stellar start to the 2018 season.
In that game, MacGregor lasted just one inning and was saddled with the loss as the Crawdads rung up the Power for four first inning runs. All of those runs, however, were unearned and if not for a little bad luck behind him, the 2016 second round pick by the Pirates might have gone on to replicate the success he has found in his other starts.
At least Power manager Wyatt Toregas thinks so.
“I feel like the outing in Hickory really wasn’t his fault,” Toregas said. “We made some mistakes behind him and I really feel like if we make some plays, he pitches like [he did against Asheville], because he actually had really good stuff that time too.”
In his one start since then — April 19 at home against the Asheville Tourists — MacGregor was back to his old self, lasting six innings while allowing three hits and no runs with six strikeouts. It wasn’t the 12 strikeouts he recorded on April 6 in Charleston against the Greenville Drive, but it was a good sign for a young pitcher to be able to bounce back from a less than ideal situation at Hickory.
Also consider MacGregor was working a new pitch — a slider — into his arsenal with moderate success. He said the Power coaching staff called him in before a bullpen session prior to the Asheville game and told him they were going to work on a slider because the breaking pitch he had already spun a bit like a slider.
“I’ve been working on a new slider, and I felt like that played pretty well (against Asheville),” MacGregor said. “I’m still kind of learning that pitch. It’s tough to just throw it into the game and when I go into the game we have the mindset of using whatever is comfortable. I wanted to try it a little bit and if it just flat-out wasn’t working, I’d switch back to what I used to do. I thought it played fair enough today use it.”
Toregas said MacGregor, who is scheduled to start Wednesday in the first game of a doubleheader against the Rome Braves in Charleston, is a work in progress as far as the new slider is concerned. Still, with a fastball that touched 96 miles per hour against the Tourists and sat fairly consistently around 94 for most of his outing, the ceiling for the 20-year-old from Clearwater, Fla., is pretty high.
“He threw a couple of good changeups tonight, but his slider, it’s hard to put a number on it because I haven’t looked at the sheet, but I’d say 70 percent of them were good,” Toregas said. “He threw a couple of hangers in there, but he kind of put them in good spots or he got lucky and threw them to good spots where he didn’t get hurt. He knows he throws hard so he doesn’t have to be perfect with it, especially at his age. As he gets older, we’d like to get that number to where he executes every single one. Right now, considering his age I feel like he’s in a really good spot and he’s only going to get better.”
MacGregor spent last season with the Bristol Pirates before making the leap to the South Atlantic League this season. Toregas got his first experience with MacGregor this year in spring training, and so far the relationship between the pitching prospect and the former catcher is blossoming.
“This year is my first interaction with him, and I like him, obviously,” Toregas said. “You can tell by the stuff, but he just seems like he’s a different guy on game day and as a former catcher, I like that. He’s mean and he’s getting down to work, but the other days he’s just a good guy. He’s a good teammate. He’s not showing pressure as much as he’s showing the will to do it. He’s showing why he was a second-rounder more than trying to live up to it. He’s saying, ‘Look, I’m a second-rounder and here’s why.’ I’m not seeing any pressure, I’m just seeing a kid go out there and doing what he does.”