BRADENTON, Fla. – Travis MacGregor has been putting together a solid season this year in West Virginia. He has a 3.10 ERA in 29 innings, with a 43:7 K/BB ratio so far. Unfortunately, his season was temporarily derailed after a start on May 14th, when he went on the disabled list with a shoulder issue.

MacGregor said that the issue was a spasm of the deltoid muscles in the back of his shoulder. He needed rest and rehab, taking a week off, then going day-to-day during his build-up.

The injury popped up right before his final start, when he gave up two earned runs on six hits in 1.2 innings. MacGregor said that the injury was bothering him during that outing.

“I really shouldn’t have started that one,” MacGregor said. “That was kind of on me. I tried to tough it out, and I shouldn’t have.”

He made his second rehab start yesterday in the GCL, and says that he’s feeling good. He gave up one earned run, a solo homer, on two hits in four innings. MacGregor said that he expects to go to West Virginia for his next outing.

I saw MacGregor a bit during Spring Training, but yesterday was my first look at him since he has had a bit of a breakout in West Virginia. His delivery looks much cleaner than it has in the past two years. It previously had a lot of moving parts, and that led to control problems. He has cleaned that up, and the better delivery can explain the control improvements this year.

“I think that just happened with what they’ve been working on with me, trying to stay back,” MacGregor said, noting that the changes have been helping. “Keeping me moving in a fluid motion.”

MacGregor has also been getting more aggressive with the fastball, using it up in the zone more and throwing the pitch for strikeouts. He also made another change to his game, ditching his curveball and adding a slider after about his third start of the season.

“We got rid of the curveball. We’re just working on the slider now,” MacGregor said. “It’s a new pitch. Just trying to work on it every time I get out there on the mound.”

The Pirates felt that the pitch is better for the way his arm goes through the motions, and felt that the slider would be more effective for him. So far he has been getting a lot of his strikeouts with the fastball, and he’s not using the slider yet as an out pitch. However, adding an out pitch will only help him as he moves up.

“It’s been good,” MacGregor said of the slider. “It’s a learning process with a new pitch, but I feel like I’m learning to use it better. Right now I think it’s more getting guys off-balance with it, rather than trying to get the strikeout with that, but I think it’s coming along pretty well.”

He might make one more start somewhere before returning to West Virginia, or he might just go back for his next outing. Either way, we should get about two months of MacGregor in Low-A, giving more of an opportunity to see if he can continue the breakout season he started in the first month and a half of the year.

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