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Bucs' Brault strong in Fall League action

Club's No. 26 prospect allows one run in three innings in rain-shortened loss for Glendale

Steven Brault had always done his best wherever the left-hander had pitched. When he got to the mound in the Arizona Fall League, the Pirates' No. 26-ranked prospect felt he had to be better.

"You come in with a 'got to be perfect' kind of feeling. These guys you're playing against are so good, it gets to the point you try to be too fine," Brault said Thursday after he stopped giving the opposition too much credit, or much of anything else, in his second start for Glendale.

Brault limited Scottsdale to one run in three innings, albeit the 2-1 lead with which he departed turned into a rain-abbreviated, seven-inning 4-2 loss at Camelback Ranch.

Dominic Ficociello tripled for the tying run off Andre Wheeler in the sixth and the Scorpions rallied for the two tie-breaking runs in the seventh against Chris Cotton, with Austin Slater driving in one of the runs with his third hit of the game.

Brault "simplified" his approach to rebound from his Fall League debut, in which he couldn't get out of the third inning and allowed four earned runs in 2 2/3 innings.

"It was time to get back to what I did during the regular season: Attack guys, and let the defense do the work," Brault said.

That approach worked splendidly this season in the initial Double A exposure for Brault, one of the two lefties (Stephen Tarpley being the other) acquired by the Bucs in January's trade of Travis Snider to the Orioles. At Altoona in the Eastern League, Brault went 9-3 with an ERA of 2.00 in 15 starts, the new acme of a noteworthy Minor League career that projected him among the Bucs' top pitching prospects.

With less than a full season of Double-A experience, Brault is not likely to make an impact in Pittsburgh until 2017. But he definitely bears watching, because he is the sort of pitcher the Pirates consider ideal: He keeps the ball in the park, he keeps runners on first base, and he is not afraid to pitch to contact.

"Those are things I've always focused on," Brault said. "If you can control the running game and keep the ball in the park ... thinking like that has to help me. If you get the ball anywhere the defense can field it, just let them do the work, it has to help you do better. Those are things I've always worked on."

In a career total of 345 innings in the Minors, Brault has surrendered nine home runs -- one in 90 innings with the Curve this season. The confidence in his stuff -- albeit not overpowering, his fastball topping out at 92 mph -- is evidenced by his career ratio of 287 strikeouts-to-82 walks.

Regardless, Brault knows he has to wait his turn. At No. 26 overall, he is No. 14 among the Bucs' pitching prospects, a list topped by Tyler Glasnow.

He is more than happy to wait, given the company he is keeping.

"It's cool to be a part of an organization that has the talent we have," he said. "There are so many people at every level competing for that same spot, and that's awesome, a good problem to have. On a team with such talent going in the right direction, with all the playoff experiences, you've got to keep pushing."

Another reason that will make the wait worthwhile: When he arrives in Pittsburgh, and unlike how it would have been in Baltimore, the former collegiate outfielder will be able to pick up a bat. He knows how to use it: He batted .438 (7-for-16) with Altoona this season.

"I'm definitely looking forward to that part. I love it," Brault confirmed.

Tom Singer is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer and on his podcast.
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