BRADENTON -- If you planned on alerting Kyle McPherson of the huge opportunity staring him in the face this spring, don't bother.
The 6-foot-4 Alabama native knows all about it.
"This is a big year for me," McPherson said Monday afternoon at Pirate City.
A year guys like McPherson dream of.
A former Bradenton Marauder who came within two outs of throwing a no-hitter at McKechnie Field in 2011, McPherson, 25, enters camp in the running to land the fifth slot in the Pittsburgh Pirates' starting rotation.
This time last year, McPherson's goal was to crack the Pirates' roster one day. And he did it, appearing in 10 games with Pittsburgh last summer.
This time around?
"My eyes are set at being in that rotation," he said.
Since getting selected by the Pirates during the 14th round of the 2007 draft, McPherson has progressed well through the chain. His biggest weapon has been his control -- McPherson walked just 102 in 597 2/3 professional innings and has a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 4.97.
McPherson logged 71 2/3 innings for the Marauders in 2011 and walked six before he was promoted to Double-A Altoona. He was a combined 12-6 with a 2.96 ERA in the two stops and was named the Pirates' Minor League Pitcher of the Year that season.
Consequently, aside from a trip to the Dominican League, McPherson didn't treat this offseason a whole lot differently from offseasons of the past.
Why deviate from what works?
"I just came back home and continued with my preparation," McPherson said. "I'm ready to go."
Spots in a starting rotation are the Holy Grail for pitchers, and McPherson will have some competition, including Jeff Locke and Jonathan Sanchez.
Another former Marauder, Locke is a friend of McPherson's, and the two are neighbors inside Pirate City's expansive clubhouse. Locke earned a promotion to Pittsburgh in 2011 and has made 10 big-league starts.
Sanchez is the most accomplished of the three. He won 13 games for San Francisco's World Series championship team in 2010 and he threw a no-hitter in '09 before earning an invitation from the Pirates this spring.
"Let them make the decisions at the end of camp," McPherson said, "and we'll see where we're at."
McPherson was used mostly of the bullpen last year in Pittsburgh, where he appeared in 10 games, made three starts and posted an 0-2 record and 2.73 ERA while wearing a high number (60) typically given to late-season call-ups.
This spring, McPherson is No. 38, which is more suited to a player set to head north with the big team after camp.
Makes sense, because that is where McPherson wants to be.
"My goal is to be ready for Day One of the season," he said. "All hopes, if it goes my way, is to break (camp) with Pittsburgh.
"The biggest goal for me is to break with the team in that rotation. Or if need be, be that guy coming out of the pen for the betterment of the team."