Pribanic's Sinker On The Rise

Righty could thrive with groundouts

PITTSBURGH—Aaron Pribanic does not strike out many batters, and he probably gives up too many hits. But the Pirates' management sounds as high on his potential as perhaps any starting pitcher in the low minors, if only for one reason.

"It's the sinker," major league bench coach and former field coordinator Jeff Banister said. "It's really heavy. And I mean Kevin Brown heavy."

"You're looking at it like it's a fastball and, then, boom, it's under you," outfielder Andrew Lambo said.

Pribanic, a 24-year-old righthander, went 7-6, 3.33 in 27 starts for high Class A Bradenton last season, including a strikeout total of just 71 in 154 innings and a .263 opponent average. But all of that, management feels, was mitigated by a highly impressive 1.9-to-1 groundout-to-air out ratio. That came almost entirely because of the sinker.

He was assigned to relief duty in the Arizona Fall League and had a 2.00 ERA in 11 appearances, with a 1.7 groundout rate.

The Pirates acquired Pribanic in the summer of 2009 as part of the five-player deal that sent veteran shortstop Jack Wilson to Seattle.

"When we traded for Aaron, we were intrigued by his ability to pound the strike zone and get a lot of ground balls with a plus sinker," general manager Neal Huntington said.  "He has continued to be successful in these areas in his time with the Pirates."

Pribanic's sinker has been good enough—only Mike Crotta in Triple-A is seen internally as having that pitch more refined—that the Pirates have bucked the usual policy of prohibiting pitchers in the low minors from using it until they fully establish four-seam command.

Treasure Trove

• The Pirates reshuffled several minor league managerial posts, headlined by Dean Treanor taking over at Triple-A Indianapolis after being the pitching coach there. P.J. Forbes was promoted one level to Double-A Altoona. Carlos Garcia, the Pirates' previous first base coach, will take the job with Bradenton. Gary Robinson was promoted one level to low Class A West Virginia. Dave Sturgeon, formerly an associate head coach at Virginia Tech, will take over at short-season State College.

• The Pirates created a new developmental position called rehab pitching coordinator—someone to work with players recovering from injuries. It will be filled by Scott Mitchell, who had been the Triple-A pitching coach for the Marlins.