After so many years of losing, it can be understandably hard for Pittsburgh Pirates fans to get excited about the future.
While we are just three years into the Ben Cherington era, the endless cycle has been going on for the better part of 30 years, minus of course the three straight postseason runs under Neal Huntington and led by Andrew McCutchen.
Not only does first year Altoona Curve manager Kieran Mattison believe that a winning team in Pittsburgh is on its way, but he’s also seen it already in his time with the Greensboro Grasshoppers last year.
He believes that the relationship between Nick Gonzales and Liover Peguero laid the foundation for a winning team in Pittsburgh soon.
The moment? It wasn’t some fancy double play, or a hit, or anything during a game but a moment near the end of the season the two shared and Mattison overlooked.
“Were in Hudson Valley and it was the next to the last game of the season,” Mattison recalled during a recent appearance to the Murphanko Experience podcast. “And we did a lot of our work, guys hitting in the cages, and we would go out for optional defense.”
Gonzales and Peguero opted to take in some extra reps in preparation for the game, with Blake Sabol taking them out to hit some grounders to the double play duo, with Mattison deciding to join in.
“Blake was hitting the groundballs and Peggy and Nick was just out there like talking about moments or simulating situations in a game like ‘If I’m here, I’m going to do this and if you’re here, I’m going to do this.'”
They were playing out scenarios on the second to last day of the regular season. A small detail to some, maybe but not to Mattison.
He turned to Blake and spoke to the bigger picture, “I told Blake, look at those big league wins right there.”
Doubling down, mentioning the endless possibilities of a playoff or even World Series berth from the work starting right then and now.
“They’ll see it later; we saw it starting last year. That’s special. You can’t teach that.”
The pair share something of firsts within the organization, with Peguero being a part of one of the first big trades made under Cherington. The 21-year-old from the Dominican Republic, along with Brennan Malone was sent to Pittsburgh in the Starling Marte trade and has the chance to be one of the youngest players in Double-A should the Pirates assign him to Altoona.
Gonzales was the first draft pick made by Cherington, selected seventh overall in 2020. Rated as one of the best college hitters in his class, Gonzales spent three years raking at New Mexico State before signing with the Pirates.
The two are also among six Pirates in the system to be named to MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospects this year.
Through Peguero keeping a picture of Gonzales at his locker or posting videos of his double play partner in the batting cage on Instagram, there is an obvious bond there. It paid off in Greensboro reach the playoffs last year, with both Gonzales and Peguero playing a big part in the team’s success.
When it comes to those who say that winning doesn’t matter in the minors, Mattison has other thoughts on the topic.
“When people get married, they say Mr. and Mrs. two names together and then they say the last name, that’s how winning and development go together… It’s not one or the other.”+ posts
Anthony began writing over 10 years ago, starting a personal blog to cover the 2011 MLB draft, where the Pirates selected first overall. After bouncing around many websites covering hockey, he refocused his attention to baseball, his first love when it comes to sports. He eventually found himself here at Pirates Prospects in late 2021, where he covers the team’s four full season minor league affiliates.