BRADENTON, Fla. -- After a season marked by injuries and bouts of ineffectiveness, Kevin Siegrist went back to what worked over the winter. He ditched the deliberate offseason routine he implemented a year ago, returned to the program that brought him success in previous seasons and eventually found a free-agent
BRADENTON, Fla. -- After a season marked by injuries and bouts of ineffectiveness, Kevin Siegrist went back to what worked over the winter. He ditched the deliberate offseason routine he implemented a year ago, returned to the program that brought him success in previous seasons and eventually found a free-agent fit with Pittsburgh.
Signed to a Minor League deal on Feb. 24, Siegrist made a strong first impression in his Pirates debut on Saturday afternoon. After giving up a leadoff double, the left-hander struck out three straight hitters to finish a scoreless seventh inning in the Bucs' 15-1 loss to the Braves at LECOM Park.
"Everything feels good," Siegrist said afterward. "It's just getting more in sync and more relaxed and getting sharper. That'll come."
It seemed to do so as his outing progressed Saturday, in fact. Top prospect Ronald Acuna Jr. laced a double to center and stole third base, then Siegrist settled down and moved his fastball around the zone to strike out Johan Camargo, Jaff Decker and Dustin Peterson. All three went down swinging.
"As weird as it sounds, I feel like I was forcing everything a little bit," he said. "After I gave up the hit, I kind of relaxed a little bit and slowed things down. That helped out."
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Siegrist's Spring Training got off to a late start as he waited into late February before signing. He felt he found an ideal match with the Pirates, and Pittsburgh will give him a "real opportunity" to make the Opening Day bullpen, manager Clint Hurdle said.
The 28-year-old credited his offseason routine for helping him quickly get up to speed. Last winter, he found himself worn down by a season in which he made 67 appearances for the Cardinals. He thought more rest might be the solution, so he put off throwing until January.
"It didn't turn out great," Siegrist said.
After recording a 2.44 ERA for the Cardinals in 2015-16, Siegrist put up a 4.81 ERA in 46 appearances last year. He dealt with a cervical spine sprain in late June/early July and forearm tendinitis in August. So this past offseason, he started throwing shortly after Thanksgiving and began bullpen sessions in January -- "what I know works," he said.
If Siegrist can show that he's returned to form this spring, he should be able to carve out a role in front of closer Felipe Rivero and setup man George Kontos in the Pirates' bullpen. Siegrist said he won't let the competition affect the way he prepares for the season, however.
"I can only control myself, really," he said. "Whoever makes that decision, makes that decision."
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The Pirates have a handful of lefty relief options, including Josh Smoker, Jack Leathersich and starter Steven Brault. None can boast the same experience as Siegrist, who made his Major League debut in 2013 and pitched in the postseason for St. Louis in '13 and '15. There could be room in front of Rivero for more than one lefty -- a luxury the Pirates have not enjoyed in recent years.
"We'll have to wait and see how everything plays out. We're looking for guys that can make pitches," Hurdle said. "We haven't had a lot of left-handed options in the past. This could be a camp where we break with more than one, obviously."
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.