Indy Indians Preview: Shelby Ford and Jim Negrych

Jim Negrych is almost a home-town boy — he grew up in Buffalo, New York, but went to University of Pittsburgh, where he did nothing but hit, hit, hit. �Negrych was the Pirates’ 6th round pick in the 2006 draft, and he had reached A+ Lynchburg by 2008, when his bat had a breakout year. �He hit a whopping .370 for the Hillcats, with 36 doubles, 5 homers, and 62 RBI. �Negrych does not have much power, but .370 is pretty hard to ignore. �The Pirates tried to ignore it for awhile, because Negrych’s fielding is not all that great. �He’d been playing second base, and was tried at third base while at Lynchburg, and he isn’t too good at either place (25 errors). �That was what delayed his move up to AA Altoona — the Pirates were hoping his fielding would improve, because they keep saying that they have goals for players to fulfill at each step on the ladder. �Finally, they couldn’t ignore the hitting any longer, and Negrych was promoted to Altoona, where he hit .310 over 25 games at the end of 2008.

Negrych�was back in Altoona to begin 2009. �He began the season with a 4-for-5 game, and went 7-for-13 in the first three games. �After four games without a hit, Negrych went on a 9-game hitting streak and hit in all but 2 games for the rest of the month, ending April with a .373 average. �But he injured his leg sliding into home on April 30th, and though he was not put on the Disabled List, he was out for a week. �When Negrych came back, he went into a 2-for-32 slump before he got going again towards the end of the month. �That gave him a .194 average for the month of May, and dropped his season average to .301. �June was also tough, as he hit .229, with a homer and 11 RBI. �Negrych turned himself around beginning at the end of June, and continuing into July. �He again had several multi-hit games in July, and was hitting .310 for the month when a disaster occurred. �On July 24th, Negrych dove for a ball that had been hit up the middle — but Brian Friday dove too, and Friday’s knee rammed into Negrych’s middle. �Negrych remained in the game, but when the game ended, it was clear that he had a problem. �He was taken to the hospital and underwent surgery to repair a torn blood vessel in his abdomen. �That ended his season, of course. �In fact, Negrych had to be hospitalized again a short time later due to infection. �The final numbers for 2009: �.272 average, 18 doubles, 1 triple, 3 homers, and 30 RBI over 93 games. �Negrych worked 45 walks, as his plate discipline is excellent, and he struck out only 37 times. �He also made 16 errors.

Negrych reported to minor league camp for spring training fully healed and ready to go for 2010. �He got into three Grapefruit League games with the Pirates and went 1-for-4 at the plate. �The 25-year-old Negrych is going to face the same problem as Shelby Ford: �a crowded middle infield in Indianapolis, and one almost as crowded in Altoona. �He’s with the Pirates in Philadelphia for the two games this weekend (had a single up the middle in his at-bat), so that means he’ll be starting in Altoona. �If he hits .370 again, the Pirates are going to have to do something with him.

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