LaFromboise goes from forgotten to a playoff race

LaFromboise goes from forgotten to a playoff race

PHILADELPHIA -- Three weeks ago, Bobby LaFromboise was a forgotten-about reliever in San Diego's system, putting up pedestrian numbers for Triple-A El Paso. If someone told LaFromboise he would be pitching in the Majors less than a month later, there's a decent chance he would have laughed at them.

But there the 28-year-old lefty was on Sunday, getting out of a jam at Wrigley Field, and then pitching a perfect inning Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park.

The Pirates took a chance claiming LaFromboise off waivers on Aug. 24, and not only was he one of the team's September callups when rosters expanded, but he's made a good first impression for his new team, which is chasing its second consecutive playoff berth.

"It was an aggressive call from [general manager Neal Huntington] and our guys to grab him on waivers," manager Clint Hurdle said. "There weren't numbers that just jumped out at you, or he wouldn't have been let go. Sometimes, a guy just needs a fresh start and he's seemed to really embrace the opportunity."

Embrace it he has. LaFromboise -- who debuted in the bigs last season with the Mariners -- hasn't allowed a hit or issued a walk in his first 1 2/3 innings as a Pirate, tallying three strikeouts in the process. He has not looked like a pitcher who had a 4.75 ERA and an opponent's batting average of .309 against him in 58 Triple-A games this season.

With those numbers, LaFromboise was not expecting any outside inquires about him, and was a bit perplexed when the Pirates picked him up.

"I kind of didn't know what they were thinking," LaFromboise said. "There were eight days left in the Minor League season. I didn't know exactly know what their intentions were, so I told myself to pitch well and see what happens."

LaFromboise had much better results in Pittsburgh's system, throwing four hitless innings in five appearances for Triple-A Indianapolis. And, on Sept. 2, he was one of the players that joined the Bucs in St. Louis, a move LaFromboise said had him "a little shocked."

He stepped on the mound for the first time in black and gold five days later, working around a wild pitch to get two outs, leaving a pair of inherited runners on base. He followed that up Wednesday with a 1-2-3 inning against the Phillies while his aunt and uncle from the area looked on. His clean sixth featured strikeouts of left-handed-batter Cody Asche and right-handed Wil Nieves.

"I've tried to show them I can pitch in tight spots, and I can pitch to more than just lefties," LaFromboise said. "I'm just glad they've let me go out there and prove myself."

Worth noting
• Hurdle said right-hander Charlie Morton (hip) will throw a "light bullpen" session on Friday. Morton has been on the disabled list with a sports hernia in his right hip since Aug. 17. He threw a simulated game on Tuesday. It's uncertain if he'll pitch again during a game in 2014.

Andrew McCutchen's homer last night might not have left the park -- but, the drive was measured at a true distance of 419 feet -- longer than any of the other 15 homers hit conventionally that night, according to MLB.com researcher Roger Schlueter.

First number, last word
2.77 -- A.J. Burnett's career ERA in four starts against the Pirates. Burnett, who pitched with Pittsburgh in 2012 and 2013, faced the Pirates once earlier this season at PNC Park, allowing three runs on five hits in seven innings.

"The only one I was ever in was in the Minor Leagues, by no means as dramatic as it is up here."

-- Clint Hurdle on the race for the batting title. With 17 games remaining, the Pirates have two candidates to win this year's in Josh Harrison (.318) and Andrew McCutchen (.311), who enter Thursday first and third in the National League, respectively.

Stephen Pianovich is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.