Holmes impresses Hurdle in spring debut

Pirates prospect strikes out 4 in 2 innnings

Holmes impresses Hurdle in spring debut

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Before Monday, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle had only seen right-hander Clay Holmes on video or throwing to his own teammates in Spring Training.

Holmes left a pretty good first impression in his Grapefruit League debut, tossing two scoreless innings and striking out four in the Pirates' 2-1 win over the Blue Jays at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium. The 6-foot-5 right-hander touched 97 mph with his fastball, mixed in his relatively new slider-cutter and tossed a few curveballs while holding Toronto to one hit and a walk.

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"The fastball's real with some life," Hurdle said. "You saw downhill angle, extreme downhill angle."

The Pirates added Holmes, their No. 11 prospect according to MLBPipeline.com, to their 40-man roster in November to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. The 23-year-old underwent Tommy John surgery in 2014, sat out most of 2015 and returned to pitch for Double-A Altoona last season.

Holmes finished 10-9 with a 4.22 ERA in 136 1/3 innings over 26 starts. He experienced the inconsistency that often follows Tommy John returnees in their first year back but found a comfort zone toward the end of the season.

"Getting back to that spot as quick as I can here in Spring Training has kind of been my goal," Holmes said. "That first year back, you have your peaks and valleys. When I picked up a ball this offseason, I finally started to feel like I could be athletic with my arm."

Holmes is at least a year away from making a run at the Pirates rotation, but it's not difficult to see why Pittsburgh values him. He showed it Monday. He fits their preferred profile as a big, hard-throwing right-handed starter who pounds the bottom of the strike zone.

"I felt great today. There was definitely some adrenaline and excitement being out there," Holmes said. "I feel like I handled that well and still stayed within myself and executed some pitches."

Around the horn
Tyler Glasnow's dominant two-inning stint Sunday was the talk of Pirates camp on Monday. Tony Watson was pleased to hear Glasnow effectively used the slide-step he picked up from the closer -- the one Watson once learned from former Pirates closer Jason Grilli and bullpen coach Euclides Rojas.

Left-hander Steven Brault took to Twitter to compliment Glasnow, calling him "untouchable." Starter Chad Kuhl also raved about Glasnow's six-strikeout performance against the Orioles.

"That's what we've seen," Kuhl said. "If he adds that changeup, sky's the limit for him."

• Catcher Francisco Cervelli (right foot) has yet to play in a Grapefruit League game. Hurdle said it could happen "possibly soon."

• Catcher Chris Stewart is healthy but likely won't play during the first week of games, part of the plan to ease him into action following September knee surgery.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.