By John Perrotto
Tyler Glasnow had made just one second start at the Class AAA level but the drumbeat was already getting louder for the Pirates to promote the 21-year-old right-hander from Indianapolis to the major leagues.
However, that was before Thursday night when Glasnow had a rocky second outing for Indianapolis in which he walked six, allowed four runs in 4 2/3 innings in a loss at Durham.
Yet it wasn’t a total disaster. Only one of the four runs he allowed was earned and the Tampa Bay Rays’ top farm club managed just three hits while striking out six times against Glasnow
The 21-year-old, overall, is 5-4 with a 2.41 ERA in 16 minor league starts this season and has 101 strikeouts in 78 1/3 innings while allowing 56 hits and 28 walks.
The Pirates have a hole in their starting rotation with right-hander A.J. Burnett on the disabled list until at least September with a strained flexor tendon in his pitching elbow. That led to the acquisition of left-hander J.A. Happ from the Seattle Mariners last Friday in a trade.
The early returns were not encouraging as Happ lost to the Chicago Cubs at PNC Park in his Pirates’ debut Tuesday night, allowing four runs in 4 1/3 innings.
A scout from a major league team who has watched Glasnow multiple times this season — including Thursday night — believes he is a better option than Happ.
“He’s the best pitcher I’ve seen in the minor leagues all year, hands down,” the scout said. “He just overpowers minor league hitters and his stuff is good enough to play in the major leagues. I like his poise. I like his mound presence. I don’t see any reason why he isn’t in the major leagues [in 2015].”
Throughout Neal Huntington’s nearly eight years as general manager, though, the Pirates have never fast tracked a prospect. Even ace right-hander Gerrit Cole did not make his major league debut until nearly two years after being the first overall selection in the 2011 amateur draft and receiving a franchise-record signing bonus of $8 million.
“There is something to be learned at every level of the minor leagues,” Huntington said. “Triple-A is important.”
“You’re playing against a lot of experienced players, many of whom have major league service time. A young player can learn from playing against that competition.”
Another major league scout is also impressed with Glasnow but sides with the Pirates’ decision to have him pitch at Indianapolis.
“He’s very good but he’s not a finished product and I think he’d have problems with big league hitters at this stage,” the scout said. “He makes some mistakes on pitches up it the strike zone but is able to get away with that against most minor league hitters. It’d be a different story in the big leagues because you pay the price when you make mistakes up. He still has to learn that.”