mvn
Posted March 28th, 2009 by mvn
Tags: Baseball, Pittsburg Pirates
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Spring Training: Jim Negrych; Ohlendorf and Bixler Shine

Do you remember who was named Pirates’ Minor League Player of the Year for 2008? 
It was Buffalo, NY native Jim Negrych.  Negrych was the Pirates’ 6th round pick in the 2006 draft, when they took the talent with the local connection — Negrych was a standout at the University of Pittsburgh, where he hit .396 that year.  During his first two pro seasons, Negrych was hampered by injuries.  A thumb injury ended his 2006season in Williamsport (NY-Penn League), where he hit .267.  Then an oblique strain interrupted his 2007 season at Hickory, where his average improved to .282.  
The 2008 season was a healthy year for Negrych, and his bat responded.  He has never been a huge power hitter, and only 9 homers over the past 3 seasons.  But the singles and doubles jumped off his bat in Lynchburg.  In April, he hit .400 with 19 RBI.  In May, he had his lowest monthly average with the Hillcats — “only” .330, with 14 RBI.  His average rose to .354 in June and .402 in July, with 9 and 20 RBI respectively.  So why was he still in Lynchburg?  Well, you can’t stay at the plate for the whole game — you have to play half the time in the field, too.  Negrych made the transition from the middle infield to third base at Lynchburg, and the change was a struggle.  He committed 21 errors in 76 games at third base, plus 4 more in a few games at second base.  (He made 10 errors as a second baseman in Hickory in 2007.)  His struggles in the field made the Pirates reluctant to promote him.  
Negrych did finally get that promotion at the end of July, after hitting an overall .370 to lead the Carolina League.  He appeared in 25 games, all at third base, for AA Altoona.  He had 2 hits in his AA debut on July 29th, and continued hitting.  He hit .310 with 10 RBI over the rest of the season with the Curve, including a 4-hit game on August 15th, and an 8-game hitting streak, going 13-for-28, in the second half of the month.  He still struggled in the field, making  6 errors in 19 games at third base in Altoona.  
Negrych was named to the Carolina League’s All-Star teams for the mid-season and post-season, and he was the Pirates’ 2008 Minor League Player of the Year.
Another injury, this time a finger jammed on a slide, limited Negrych’s playing time with the West Oahu Cane Fires of the Hawaiian Winter League last fall.  He was hitting .273 before getting hurt.  After two weeks of inactivity, Negrych came back to play in two more games, but again had to leave in the middle of a game, and finished his HWL experience with a .231 average.  Part of the reason Negrych was assigned to the HWL was so that he could work on defense.  He played second base in Hawaii, but lost a lot of the opportunity to work on defense when he was injured. 
Negrych should be starting the 2009 season back in AA Altoona.  The 24-year-old will need to work on two things:  improving his defense, and making sure that his 2008 hitting spree was not a fluke.  
Tuesday’s games
Pirates 5, Braves 2
Ross Ohlendorf kept himself in the running for a spot in the Pirates’ starting rotation with 6 shutout innings in his start this evening.  He gave up 5 hits, all singles, and did not walk a batter, while striking out 3.  The outing dropped his ERA to 0.59, and earned him his first Grapefruit League win.  Relievers Sean Burnett and Jesse Chavez each contributed a scoreless inning.  Burnett allowed a hit and a walk.  Chavez earned his second save of the spring, striking out 2 of the 3 batters he faced.  
SS Brian Bixler was the offensive hero of the day.  He went 3-for-5 at the plate, stole 2 bases, and scored one run.  His GL batting average stands at .356.  RF Craig Monroe had a double, the Pirates’ only extra-base hit of the game.  C Ryan Doumit contributed 2 hits and an RBI.   LF Nyjer Morgan, 1B Steve Pearce, and 3B Andy LaRoche also had hits.  LF Jeff Salazar, 2B Luis Cruz, CF Andrew McCutchen, C Robinzon Diaz, RF Garrett Jones, and PH Eric Kratz all got some playing time in the game.  
Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs 16, Indy Indians 8
The Iron Pigs scored 8 runs on 8 hits off Tribe starter Ty Taubenheim in the first 4 innings of today’s game.  By the middle of the 6th inning, the Pigs were leading by a score of 14-0.  The  Indians tried to catch up, with 2 runs in the 6th, and 3 more in each of the 8th and 9th, including homers by OF Jonel Pacheco and INF Ray Chang, but they fell short.  The Indians put up 12 hits in the game (plus 19 by the Pigs, for a total of 31 hits).   
NOTES:
Former Pirate Humberto Cota, who had been in Reds’ camp, has been released by the Reds.
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