Righthander Quinn Priester had a challenge earlier this season to stay active without the minor league season.
The 19-year-old righthander and 2019 first-rounder out of high school in Illinois reached out to minor league hitters in the Chicago area, aiming to get practice against live hitters. With the absence of fielders, Priester determined if a ball in play was a hit, or if there would have been a fielder at the spot, making it difficult to gauge his results.
That all changed when the Pirates added the 6-foot-3, 195-pound starter to their taxi squad roster at their alternate training site in Altoona, Pa. On Sept. 6, Priester pitched in his first real game, throwing 46 pitches over three innings, sitting 96-97 mph and touching 98.
The velocity is an uptick over what Priester has seen in the past, and he attributes that to the work he was doing at home this summer. While the velocity spike was encouraging, Priester is more focused on maintaining the velocity through the game.
“I just want to make sure I can consistently hold my velocity,” Priester said. “I don’t want to be throwing 96-98 in the first inning, and then down the road in the sixth inning throwing 91-92. My goal now is to maintain that velocity through games.”
Priester said that his fastball command wasn’t where he wanted it, but that this would be a focus in his upcoming work.
“My cue to myself is to stay tall, and stay through the plate,” Priester said of his command. “Throw right through the middle of the plate, versus falling off to the left. If I’m doing those things consistently, I’ll probably have a good day on the mound.”
Priester has also been focusing on his changeup and is currently working on his confidence throwing the pitch.
“I’m still working on that, pushing myself to throw it, especially when I’m here, throwing it against good hitters,” Priester said. “When I have success against some of our organization’s best, then I think the confidence in the pitch will go up.”
— Third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes made his major league debut on Sept. 1, going 2-for-5 with a home run. Hayes is the son of former big league third baseman Charlie Hayes, who played for the Pirates in 1996.
— The Pirates claimed outfielder Anthony Alford on waivers from the Blue Jays on Aug. 27. Alford went 3-for-12 with a triple and a home run over five games before going down for the year with a fractured right elbow. The Pirates lack center field depth in their system, so Alford will likely remain in the organization and get another shot with the big league club in spring training.