Singh's Unlikely Path Keeps Unfolding
Lefty goes from India to West Virginia
BRADENTON, FLA.—The amazing baseball story of Rinku Singh will turn to a new chapter this spring, as he is expected to open the season with low Class A West Virginia.
Normally, that wouldn't be notable for someone who is 23 and has logged 75 innings of relief over three professional seasons. But there's little normal about the career path of Singh, who was born and raised in India and won an Indian TV reality show called "Million Dollar Arm" before signing with Pittsburgh for $5,000.
Much publicity followed, and a movie is in the works, but none of it will match the reality if Singh somehow keeps climbing within a sport he never witnessed until four years ago.
"Rinku is playing under the lights, and that's a credit to him and everyone who's worked with him," general manager Neal Huntington said. "I can tell you there's nobody who outworks Rinku at any level of our system, and that's the kind of kid you root for. We'd love to see him do well."
The Pirates were charged by some at the time of Singh's signing—along with his since-released friend Dinesh Patel—of engaging in a cheap publicity stunt. But Singh, a 6-foot-2 lefthander who was the only one of the two Indians ever given a realistic chance of advancing, continued to prove himself a legitimate player in 2011, going 4-3, 2.45 in 20 relief appearances while moving up two levels. He opened in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and wound up in West Virginia.
Singh's fastball has touched 92 mph, but he mostly sits in the 88-90 range. He struck out 32 in 40 innings last season, and most impressive given his remarkably raw status, walked just 11. Opponents batted .248 with two home runs.
He then went to pitch in the Australian Baseball League over the winter and went 1-1, 5.49 in 12 appearances.
The primary goal this season will be improving against righthanded batters, who bat more than 100 points higher off him than lefthanded batters.
• Infielder Gustavo Nunez, taken from the Tigers in December's major league Rule 5 draft, was placed on the 60-day disabled list for a right ankle injury. Nunez hit .276/.333/.386 between high Class A and Double-A in 2011.
• Righthander Jameson Taillon, the No. 2 overall draft pick in 2010, probably will open the season with a warmer-weather team before making his debut with Double-A Altoona. He went 2-3, 3.98 in 93 innings last season while on a 75-pitch limit.