First Pitch: The Pirates had a Set Plan for Travis MacGregor in 2020

Travis MacGregor is just trying to stay busy like everyone else during this unexpected downtime in baseball. He’s not like everyone else though, because he was one of a four pitchers for the Pittsburgh Pirates who was coming back from Tommy John surgery. He was also different from the other three players in that group because they all have big league experience.

Before the stoppage in play, the Pirates had a plan for MacGregor covering the entire 2020 season. Things have obviously changed, but it gives some insight into how the new front office will handle young pitchers who missed extended time.

Now a month after all baseball play was stopped, MacGregor is at home trying to cope with the unexpected break that changed plans.

“I’ve been staying prepared for us to return to normal baseball operations by throwing into a rug I hung up between two trees and doing some work outs with different objects around the house.”

Using a rug is an ingenious idea when you don’t have a throwing partner because it saves the baseballs wear and tear. Much better than my idea of throwing at the side of an old barn.

MacGregor had his Tommy John surgery late September of 2018. He was back on the mound in the Fall Instructional League 12 months later, though he wasn’t at full strength at the time. The Pirates limited him to fastballs and changeups during his two sim outings. He didn’t throw his slider at all until the off-season throwing started this past winter.

Prior to his injury, MacGregor was making huge progress on the mound. Enough that we still rated him as the 20th best prospect in the system in our 2020 Prospect Guide. He’s still just 22 years old, so there is plenty of time for his to get back on track towards the majors. The question remains, when will he get a chance to start back up? That can’t be answered now, but he was able to provide some insight on how he was going to be used under normal circumstances in 2020.

MacGregor said that he was up to two sim innings when things were shut down last month and everything has felt fine during the rehab process. He was actually scheduled to throw two innings in a game on the first day everything was stopped. The plan was to have him ready as a starting pitcher for the Opening Day roster in Bradenton on April 9th.

From there he was going to throw about 80 innings, while working on a limited pitch count all season. There was going to be a mid-season break from game action, which would have allowed him to pitch at the end of the season and possibly into the playoffs if his team made it that far. Most importantly, there was no plan to take him out of the starting rotation and put him in the bullpen to help limit those innings.

If they get back to playing, those plans will likely change. MacGregor would have been at five innings (probably 60-75 pitches) right now without the break. Instead, he’s throwing five times a week, with one actual bullpen type session in that throwing program. He’s getting that planned mid-season break now, which could help him avoid a break if/once things get started back up and possibly reach that 80 innings limit, which would help him advance to a normal full season worth of innings in 2021.




Baseball and comedy


By John Dreker

Nine former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including one Hall of Famer.

Vic Willis, pitcher for the 1906-09 Pirates. He made the Hall of Fame due to his four seasons in Pittsburgh. He was a great pitcher during his other nine seasons in the majors, but he pitched for some awful teams, which led to a 160-159 record. With the Pirates he was a workhorse ace on a team filled with strong pitching. He won 21+ games in each of his four seasons with the Pirates and he posted a 2.08 ERA, while averaging just over 300 innings per seasons. During the 1909 World Series winning season, Willis had a 22-11 record. He ranks 19th all-time in both complete games (388) and shutouts (50). During the 1899 and 1906 seasons, he led all MLB pitchers in WAR. Willis lived to be 71 years old, but he wasn’t elected to the Hall of Fame until 48 years after his passing.

D.J. Carrasco, pitcher for the Pirates in 2010. He was drafted by the Orioles in 1997, released in 1998 and signed with the Indians. After one season in their system he was released again, signing with the Pirates. Carrasco spent four seasons in the Pirates system before they lost him in the 2002 Rule 5 draft to the Royals. He pitched three seasons for the Royals, going 14-15, 4.81 in 101 games. He spent 2006 in the minors with Kansas City, 2007 at Triple-A for Arizona and began 2008 at Triple-A for the White Sox. He was called to the majors in July and went 1-0, 3.96 in 31 relief appearances. In 2009, he went 5-1, 3.76 in 49 outings and 93.1 innings. The White Sox let him go following the season and he signed with the Pirates on January 20, 2010. In Pittsburgh, he went 2-2, 3.88 in 45 games prior to being dealt to the Diamondbacks at the trade deadline. Carrasco became a free agent after the 2010 season and signed with the Mets for two years to finish out his big league career.

Jeff Wallace, pitcher for the 1997 and 1999-2000 Pirates. The Pirates acquired him in the six-player deal with the Royals on December 13, 1996 that saw Jay Bell and Jeff King go to Kansas City. Wallace was drafted by the Royals one year earlier in the 25th round. His first season with the Pirates, he pitched great at Lynchburg, earning a quick promotion to Double-A, where he had a 5.40 ERA in 43.1 innings of relief work. The Pirates called him up to the majors in late-August 1997 despite the high ERA and lack of experience. The move paid off initially, in 11 outings he pitched 12 innings, striking out 14 and allowing just one earned run. Wallace had to have elbow surgery during Spring Training of 1998, causing him to miss the entire season. He returned healthy in 1999 to go 1-0, 3.69 in 41 games, pitching a total of 39 innings. The 2000 season was a tough one. He had a 7.07 ERA out of the bullpen and the Pirates put him on waivers following the season, where he was picked up by the Reds. Twenty days later, he was released, eventually signing with the Devil Rays for 2001, his last season in the majors. Jeff pitched 90 games with the Pirates without picking up a loss, the highest total of games pitched without a loss in team history.

Tommie Sisk, pitcher for the 1962-68 Pirates. Pittsburgh signed him as an amateur free agent before the start of the 1960 season. He pitched well for Asheville of the South Atlantic League in 1961, going 12-3, 3.81 in 144 innings, earning a late promotion to Triple-A Columbus. Sisk started 1962 in Triple-A, getting his first shot at the majors in July of that season as a spot starter during a doubleheader. After two relief appearances, he returned to Columbus to finish the minor league season, rejoining the Pirates in September. In the Pirates bullpen for 1963, Sisk made 57 appearances, pitching a total of 108 innings. He had a 1-3 record with a 2.92 ERA. He had troubles in 1964, earning a brief demotion back to Columbus, but was back to form the following season when he began to see more time on the mound. In 1966, he made 25 starts, going 10-5, 4.14 in 150 innings.

The 1967 was the best of his career. He threw a career high 207.2 innings, posting a 13-13, 3.34 record. The next season his playing time started to diminish, despite pitching decent through mid-June with a 4-2, 3.75 record. In his last 24 appearances of the 1968 season, 21 of them came during Pirates losses. One of the wins during that stretch was a start in which he gave up just one run through 8.1 innings. The Pirates traded Sisk to the Padres in a four-player deal on March 28, 1969. He pitched one season in San Diego, then was traded to the White Sox for 1970 and they in turn traded him to the Indians in June of that season. The Indians sent him to the minors, where he finished his career following the 1971 season. With the Pirates, Tommie had a 37-35, 3.69 record in 246 games, 85 as a starter.

Woodie Fryman, pitcher for the 1966-67 Pirates. The Pirates signed him as an amateur free agent in July of 1965. He had pitched semi-pro ball before signing his first pro contract at 25 years old. It took just 64 innings in the minors to convince Pittsburgh he was ready for the majors at the start of the 1966 season. Fryman would pitch 36 games that rookie season, 28 as a starter, getting in a total of 181.2 innings. He had a 12-9 record and a 3.81 ERA for the third place Pirates. He struggled at the start of the 1967 season, while also missing a month. He turned things around with a complete game win over the Astros in late July, his first victory of the season. He finished with a 3-8, 4.05 record in 118.1 innings. The Pirates traded him to the Philadelphia Phillies on December 15, 1967 along with three other players in exchange for Jim Bunning. Fryman ended up pitching another 16 years in the majors, finishing his career in 1983 with a 141-155 record in 625 games, 322 as a starter. He began closing games late in his career, picking up 58 saves.

Joe Vitelli, pitcher for the Pirates in 1944-45. He pitched seven seasons in the minors from 1932 until 1939, missing the 1936 season. Joe was with the Pirates organization playing in Albany in 1940 but did not play in 1941. He served in the army in 1942-43, returning to the Pirates in 1944 as a coach, serving as the batting practice pitcher. With the majors decimated by the losses of players serving in the military during the war at that time, the Pirates actually used Vitelli in four games during the 1944 season, despite the fact he hadn’t pitched in five years and he was 36 years old. All four of his appearances came during blowout losses in relief, getting in a total of seven innings. He was with the Pirates in the same role in 1945, but they used him just once as a pinch-runner on May 30th. He asked for his release two weeks later, ending his baseball career.

Bill Clancy, first baseman for the 1905 Pirates. The Pirates took Clancy in the September 1904 Rule 5 draft from Montreal of the Eastern League. It was said the Clancy played baseball just for the money and he would go wherever he was paid best, even if that meant staying in the minor leagues. He got a reputation from some who said he couldn’t handle the pressure of Major League baseball and that he would rather play in the minors, where he was a star player. For the Pirates in 1905, Clancy hit .229 with 34 RBIs in 56 games, drawing just four walks, leaving him with a .246 on base percentage. On July 22, 1905, the Pirates sold his contract to Rochester of the Eastern League, ending his big league career after only three months. Bill would spend the next seven seasons in the minors despite having numerous offers to play in the majors, all of which he turned down.

Walt Moryn, outfielder for the 1961 Pirates. Moryn finished his eight-year career with the Pirates in 1961, coming over from the Cardinals on June 15th of that year in a cash deal. He hit .200 with three homers in 40 games, though he was mostly coming off the bench, making just ten starts. He played right field five times and left field five times. Moryn played pro ball for a total of 14 seasons, starting his career in 1948 in the Dodgers system. He debuted in the majors in 1954 at 28 years old and he was an All-Star during the 1958 season with the Chicago Cubs.

Jerry Goff, catcher for the 1993-94 Pirates. He played a total of six seasons in the majors, two each with the Expos, Pirates and Astros. He was never a regular, playing a career high 52 games with the Expos in 1990. He hit .297 with two homers in 14 games with the 1993 Pirates, then batted .080 in eight games the following season. He played a total of 183 games in Triple-A during his time with Pittsburgh. The Pirates signed Goff as a free agent prior to the 1993 season and let him go via free agency following the 1994 season. He was drafted out of college three times before he finally signed with the Seattle Mariners in 1986.

John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.

When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.

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