Clay Holmes’ Progress Encourages Pirates

Clay Holmes (Photo by Carl Kline) Clay Holmes (Photo by Carl Kline)

PITTSBURGH—The Pirates made a sizeable investment in Clay Holmes following his senior year of high school and the righthander is getting closer to making it pay off.

Holmes was selected in the ninth round of the 2011 amateur draft after being the valedictorian of his class at Slocomb (Ala.) High. He received a $1.2 million signing bonus, the record for that round, to pass up a scholarship to Auburn.

More than two years removed from Tommy John surgery, Holmes was placed on the 40-man roster in advance of the Rule 5 Draft. That came following a season in which the 23-year-old went 10-9, 4.22 at Double-A Altoona in 136.1 innings with 6.7 strikeouts and 4.2 walks per nine innings.

The Pirates were encouraged by Holmes’ strong finish—a 3.31 ERA in his final seven starts—along with adding a slider and a two-seam fastball to an arsenal that includes a fastball that reaches the mid 90s, a curveball and a changeup.

The two-seamer, a staple of the organizational philosophy, enabled the 6-foot-5, 230-pound Holmes to induce more ground balls. The Pirates are hopeful the slider can become a strikeout pitch

“My two-seamer is going to be my best pitch,” Holmes said. “It’s been huge for me. To know I can get ground balls with it early, I’m very confident with it. The velocity is still on it, and the movement is there. At the end of the day, it’s my best pitch, and the new slider will help.”

The Pirates believe Holmes has the frame to become a potential 200-inning pitcher. Thus, they were encouraged that he made 26 starts in his first full post-surgery season after pitching a combined 36.1 innings between the Rookie-level GCL Pirates and high Class A Bradenton in 2015.


The Pirates signed righthanded reliever Lisalverto Bonilla to a major league contract after he qualified for minor league free agency. After missing 2015 while recovering from Tommy John surgery, the 26-year-old went a combined 5-7, 3.97 in 111 innings with the Dodgers’ Double-A Tulsa and Triple-A Oklahoma City affiliates.

Third baseman Eric Wood, who spent the last two seasons at Altoona, moved on to the Dominican Winter League after a fine showing in the Arizona Fall League. The 25-year-old hit .330/.388/.489 with three home runs in 88 at-bats for Surprise after batting .249/.339/.443 with 16 homers in 402 at-bats with Altoona. Playing for Cibao, Wood was slashing .211/.338/.281 in 57 at-bats with one homer but 18 strikeouts in 67 plate appearances.

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