Top Pirates minor leaguers feted at PNC

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The Pirates rewarded outfielder Robbie Grossman and pitcher Kyle McPherson for their successful seasons by naming them the minor league player and pitcher of the year Friday.

The Pirates honored them on the field before the game against the Cincinnati Reds.

"It was a big step forward for me this year," said McPherson, 23, who went 12-6 with a 2.96 ERA in a season split between Class A Bradenton and Class AA Altoona. "I really wanted to focus on building off last season and come into this season strong. Try and sustain that throughout the entire year and stay healthy and focus on the little things."

McPherson, a 14th-round draft choice in 2007, went 4-1 in Bradenton, 8-5 in Altoona. The right-hander said he focused on throwing quality strikes this season.

"From pitch number one to the last pitch of the at-bat," he said. "Never backing off on one pitch and never taking one pitch off."

He spent time with the Pirates in spring training and said facing major league hitters helped when he moved to Class AA.

"It was tough at times," he said. "I really didn't try to focus on that too much. At the same time, I knew that the game didn't change. It was still the same game. I wanted to go out there and continue to pitch and learn."

In one of his final starts in Bradenton, McPherson took a no-hitter into the ninth inning but lost it on a solo home run, the only hit he allowed.

"I thought I made a pretty good pitch," he said. "The hitter thought otherwise, of course."

The one-hit performance came shortly before the MLB draft, when general manager Neal Huntington, assistant GM Kyle Stark -- then the director of player development -- and several other front office members were in Bradenton for draft preparation.

"I guess lightning struck," he joked. "Everybody just happened to be there for that one. I was pleased that they were there to see something like that."

Grossman, 22, scored 127 runs and walked 104 times, becoming the first minor leaguer since Nick Swisher in 2004 to reach 100 in both categories.

"I knew coming into the season, [Marauders manager] Carlos [Garcia] had me hitting leadoff," Grossman said. "I knew my role in that position, get on base and let the guys behind me drive me in."

Grossman finished with a .294 average and .418 on-base percentage. Improving his switch-hitting, he said, helped his development.

"I've been weird all my life, I threw left-handed and hit right-handed," he said. "I'm finally getting more comfortable with that."

Grossman will play in the Arizona Fall League along with six other Pirates minor leaguers starting in early October. No directives, no focus points, he said.

"Just play and have fun," he said. "Chance to play against higher competition."

Finale starter undetermined

Manager Clint Hurdle said he will likely select Jeff Locke, Brian Burres or Aaron Thompson to start the final game of the season against the Brewers in Milwaukee.

Strong finish

Ryan Doumit entered the weekend hitting .404 in September. "I think he's worked hard to tune up his right-handed side," Hurdle said. Doumit hit .327 from the right side of the plate, .292 from the left. He is a career .274 hitter left-handed, .263 right-handed.

Buried treasure

Neil Walker took a 50-game errorless streak into the weekend.



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