BRADENTON — Nathan Adcock figured he’d be a Seattle Mariner forever.
It was the Mariners who drafted Adcock out of high school, who took him out of Elizabethtown, Ky., and into professional baseball in a span of a few months.
Then came the purging of the Pittsburgh Pirates, and suddenly, Adcock was with a new organization.
Ditto for Bryan Morris, Aaron Pribanic and Jeff Locke.
Never miss a local story.
Formerly prospects with other clubs, they’re all Bradenton Marauders, obtained in trades that sent many popular Pirates away from Pittsburgh.
Adcock and Pribanic were part of the package that came from the Mariners last summer in exchange for Jack Wilson and Ian Snell. Morris, a former first-round pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers, was brought over in the three-way deal that sent Jason Bay to the Boston Red Sox and Manny Ramirez to the Los Angeles Dodgers in ’08.
And the Pirates netted Locke, along with Charlie Morton and Gorkys Hernandez, when they sent Nate McLouth to Atlanta last June.
In fact, the lone homegrown member of the Marauders rotation is Brian Leach, taken by Pittsburgh in the 25th round of the ’08 draft.
Unpopular in the eyes of Pirates fans who didn’t want to see the familiar faces go, the trades were made to replenish the organization’s farm system, said the Pirates brass.
In other words, they’re banking on the arms of Adcock, Morris, Pribanic and Locke to grow together, move through the chain together, and most importantly, win together.
“It’s a new beginning for all of us,” said Adcock, who struck out seven and allowed three runs in five-plus innings of work to earn the win Wednesday over the Palm Beach Cardinals. “You’re with an organization, and you come here, and you get more excitement. The Pirates, they’re really pushing guys, and you’ve got a great opportunity to get to the big leagues.”
Pittsburgh currently sports the lowest payroll in the majors and is hoping to reverse its fortunes through the draft and the deals they made the last two summers, when they dealt away their veterans for other teams’ minor leaguers.
Consequently, it is all about development for the Marauders’ young arms. Strict pitch counts are enforced regardless of the score or the situation, which is why it isn’t uncommon to see a player pulled off the mound even if he is an out away from qualifying for a win.
“We allow enough pitches for them to get five innings — if they are going out and doing their job,” said Bradenton pitching coach Wally Whitehurst. “I don’t like to pull guys after 4 2/3 (innings), especially if they have the lead. But it makes them understand pitch efficiency and that, ‘We need to get the job done.’”
The pitchers seem to have gotten used to it.
“When the pitch count gets away from you, you get frustrated. But you know it’s only for your best benefit,” Adcock said. “The Pirates have a plan for each one of us and what we’re trying to do to get to the big leagues. We’re not trying to be career minor leaguers.”
Though the bullpen struggled during Wednesday’s 12-8 win over the Cardinals, the results have been good. Adcock is now 3-1 with a 2.70 ERA, and Morris entered Wednesday sixth in the FSL in ERA (1.31).
The Marauders, heading into Wednesday, were second in the FSL in team ERA (2.87).
“I like the direction they’re going. It can be a little better, and it will over time,” Whitehurst said. “And we’ve got to give them some time.”
The Pirates’ hope is that it all clicks at the same time.
“That’s what you’re hoping for, that you’re going be with the guys you’ve been with for a while,” said closer Noah Krol, tied for the league lead with six saves. “But you just never what’s going to happen. You’ve just got to take it one day at a time.”