PITTSBURGH -- Tyler Glasnow was taking part in a charity bowling event during the Pirates' CARE-A-Van last week when someone -- he didn't catch who it was -- piped up. It'd be cool, the person said, if Glasnow could throw strikes off the mound and not in the lanes.
Glasnow smiled. "Fair enough," he said. "Touché. Makes sense."
Speaking at PirateFest on Sunday afternoon, the Pirates' top prospect according to MLBPipeline.com appeared comfortable, confident and at ease after an often uncomfortable, inconsistent season. Glasnow isn't guaranteed a spot in Pittsburgh's Opening Day rotation, but he learned over the past year to worry less about his surroundings than himself.
Glasnow entered last spring with no realistic chance of cracking the Major League roster, but he still followed the transaction log. With every signing or trade for a starting pitcher, he wondered how it might affect him. He's paying attention this offseason, but he's more concerned about his preparation than his competition.
"I need to go in and do what I do," Glasnow said. "If I go in and have a really great Spring Training and don't make the team, but I did well and met all my goals, that's all I can do. … I'm excited. I'm ready to compete for a spot."
That switch flipped, Glasnow said, as soon as he made it to the Majors. The 6-foot-8 righty often struggled in his debut, ultimately posting a 4.24 ERA and 1.50 WHIP in 23 1/3 innings over seven appearances, four of them starts. But it was a revelation following his time in Triple-A, where he was more dominant but less sure of himself.
"I felt strangely comfortable in the big leagues in comparison to Triple-A. Just because in Triple-A, you're doing everything to get to the big leagues," Glasnow said. "You're judging yourself on such a different level. Then you get there, and you go, 'OK, this is attainable.' I can see what I have to do to get better."
What Glasnow must do to improve, pitching coach Ray Searage said, is trust his unhittable stuff. The Pirates still view Glasnow as a potential top-of-the-rotation starter, but he'll have to show more maturity.
"Being a young kid with God-blessed talent out the yin-yang, he's got to understand: Just let your stuff flow," Searage said. "He never really got settled, never really felt comfortable out there. ... If that does happen, you guys are going to be going, 'Holy schnikes!'"
Glasnow admittedly put too much pressure on himself to be perfect in Triple-A. He was thinking too much. Every pitch he threw, he worried if it was good enough for the Majors.
"It was like I'm going to Mars to pitch," he said. "I didn't know what it was going to be like.
"The best thing for me this last year was going up and experiencing it, seeing how similar it was to Triple-A and how calm I felt on the mound. I'm excited to go and do it."
Glasnow has already begun the early stages of his offseason throwing program. That, too, felt unexpectedly comfortable right away. He'll come to camp with a shot to win one of the two remaining rotation spots, and his odds increase each day the Bucs don't acquire a more experienced starter.
But Glasnow won't be watching the wires, waiting for the next move or worrying about how it might affect him. Nor will he have to wonder what it's like to pitch at the highest level.
"Everything felt fake until I got to the big leagues," he said. "Now that I got there, 'OK, it's real now.'"