Grossman Improves Walk Rate

Pirates outfielder answers to challenge

PITTSBURGH—Pirates management challenged Robbie Grossman to upgrade his offense by moving him up in the lineup to leadoff. And he responded by doing something no minor league player had achieved in seven years.

On Aug. 18 at high Class A Bradenton, Grossman drew a full-count walk for his 100th base on balls of the season, making him the first minor league player with 100 walks and 100 runs since Nick Swisher did it in 2004 for Triple-A Sacramento. He also became the first with 100 walks in the Florida State League since 1998.
To boot, he belted a home run earlier in the game. "It was a really special night," Grossman said.

Grossman, 21, was the Pirates' sixth-round pick in 2008 and signed for an above-slot $1 million. He was placed with low Class A West Virginia the year after coming out of high school in Cypress, Texas, and handled it well, but struggled last season with Bradenton at .245/.344/.345.

What troubled the Pirates most were the 118 strikeouts, after he had 164 the previous year. Rather than bury Grossman, management opted to try to bring out even more of the patience he always had shown. And it paid off with Grossman batting .292/.424/.438 with his strikeouts down to 98.

Grossman partially attributed that to faring better lefthanded—a side the switch-hitting outfielder first tried as a junior in high school—but added, "I knew I was going to hit leadoff coming into this year, and I knew my role was to get on base. I set a goal around that, getting pitches to hit."

That was the right goal, according to farm director Kyle Stark.

"He gets on base a ton," Stark said. "And he needs to get as many at-bats as possible as a prospect."

Grossman acknowledged having something of a chip after underperforming early in his career. "I wanted to come out and prove something, show I can play this game," he said.

Treasure Trove

• Short-season State College catcher Samuel Gonzalez was MVP of the New York-Penn League all-star game after hitting a two-run double. Gonzalez was batting .302/.375/.388.

• Lefthander Justin Wilson moved to relief for Triple-A Indianapolis in early August and responded by soon hitting 99 mph on the radar gun. He sat in the low 90s as a starter.