Pirates’ playoff appearance fuels minor leaguers

Young right-hander credits big-league club for organizational success

BRADENTON, Fla. – The success of the 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates is energizing the entire organization.

Jason Townsend, a 25-year old right-handed relief pitcher, who has spent the last two seasons with the Pirates Double-A affiliate in Altoona, Pennsylvania, noticed the shift in attitude early at minor-league camp.

Jason Townsend
Jason Townsend (JasonTownsend)

The big-league club made its first playoff run in 20 years last season, and Townsend welcomes the change in mindset.

“You can tell, especially this year at spring training, it’s a new atmosphere,” he said at the Pirates minor-league facility in Bradenton, Florida. “I feel like this year the tempo is higher, the expectations are higher and I think that trickled down from last year.

“Honestly, I love it.”

Last year was a difficult one for Townsend. The hurler struggled with a mid-season injury, taking a comebacker off his pitching hand, and saw his ERA balloon soon after. He finished the season with a 6.71 mark over 36 games and 53 2/3 innings.

But the Georgia native fought through it, and eventually viewed the ordeal as a chance to better himself.

“I look at last year as a learning experience,” Townsend explained. “It’s probably the worst year I’ve had in my life, if you look at the numbers. But at the same time it’s probably the most I’ve ever learned in my life.”

Townsend ended up rebounding nicely after the injury, and—like the big league club—finished the season strong. After the all-star break, the righty went 4-2 with an ERA of 2.88, a dramatic improvement over his first-half total.

Townsend credits his good second half to briefly stepping away from the game, and clearing his mind. For him, the mental break was key.

“I took two days off around [the] all-star break, relaxed and didn’t even watch baseball,” Townsend said. “I came back and I think it was just a fresh start mentally.”

Other than the setback he experienced last season, the pitcher has played well at every level, from low-A to his first season with the Curve. He’s starting this year trying to overcome a shoulder issue, but believes success can be achieved, pointing to the new attitude throughout camp as a reason for optimism.

“Even though I’m dealing with an injury, I’m still having fun and doing what I can,” said Townsend. “You can tell the level of intensity is up, and you can feel it all the way around from the clubhouse to the field.

“I think it’s going to have a tremendous effect on everybody at all of the levels.”