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Impressive pro debut for Greenbrier grad

Posted: June 18, 2013 - 11:13pm

Former Greenbrier and Georgia Tech Star Brandon Cumpton has earned a second start for the Pittsburgh Pirates after an impressive debut over the weekend. The 24-year old righthander worked into the sixth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers, allowing seven hits and three runs, and earning a no-decision in the Pirates 5-3 loss.

He was brilliant early, striking out the first four batters he faced. He became the first National League pitcher to pull off that feat in his MLB debut in 51 years. Through four innings, Cumpton was tossing a 2-hit shutout and protecting a 1-0 lead. In all, he fanned five batters while walking one.

Pittsburgh Manager Clint Hurdle was impressed with Cumpton. “We wanted to give him more of a safety net than just one run, but he came out of the chute well. I thought his poise was really good. He looked like he’d been there before,” said Hurdle.

Cumpton’s solid showing in his debut made it an easy call for Hurdle and Pirate G.M. Neal Huntington to give the Wolfpack product another start. Cumpton has been named as the starter for Pittsburgh for an afternoon game Thursday in Cincinnati as the Pirates conclude a four-game series with the Reds. First pitch is set for 12:35 p.m.

Since 1999, Greenbrier has produced 12 major league draft picks. Here is a list of all the draftees who played their prep baseball for the Wolfpack.

Tony Smith, 1999, 47th Round. Cincinnati

James Shanks, 1998, 21st Round, Kansas City

J.J. Johnson, 1999, 6th Round, Chicago Cubs

Robert Davis, 2000, 50th Round, San Francisco and …

2002, 50th Round, San Francisco

Phillip Tapley, 2002, 28th Round, San Francisco

Bradley Key, 2004, 48th Round, Cincinnati

Nick Wandless, 2006, 36th Round, Cincinnati

Rafael Parks, 2006, 29th Round, Houston

Jeff Rowland, 2009, 21st Round, Cleveland and …

2010, 19th Round, Detroit

Rich Poythress, 2009, 2nd Round, Seattle

Brandon Cumpton, 2010, 9th Round, Pittsburgh

Will Price, 2011, 45th Round, Colorado

Cumpton is the first Greenbrier product, however, to make it all the way to the big leagues. Outfielder James Shanks, who hit three homers in a state finals game for Greenbrier back in 1997, came very close. There were two times in his minor league career where it seemed he would get “the call,” but each time off-field issues derailed his big chance.

It also appeared Cumpton’s former teammate Rich Poythress might get to the big leagues first. However, he is with an organization that has invested a lot of money in another young first baseman, so Poythress’ progress has been a little slower than his performance might dictate.

Poythress still could join Cumpton in making his big league debut in 2013. The power-hitting first baseman started the season in Triple-A Tacoma but was recently sent down to Double-A Jackson. It was not because of poor performance. The former UGA star had a .358 on base percentage and five homers in 37 games for Tacoma, but he was moved to Double-A to make room for prized prospect Jesus Montero.

Montero has been a catcher his entire career but Seattle is getting him some work at first base, to make room for another prized prospect behind the plate in former Florida Gator star Mike Zunino.

Poythress’ stay in Double-A lasted only four games (He blasted two homers and drove in four runs in his brief Double-A stint) after Montero went down with an injury and will be out four-to-six weeks. For the season, Poythress has played in 53 games (four in Double-A) and is hitting .254 with nine homers, 13 doubles, and 33 RBI. He also has a .362 on base percentage and just 39 strikeouts in 213 plate appearances.

By the way, when Zunino got his call-up he had 11 homers and 43 RBI in 47 games, but had fewer hits and doubles than Poythress. He also was hitting just .238 with a .303 on base percentage thanks to just 14 walks and 59 strikeouts in only 208 plate appearances. Hopefully Rich will get the big league call this year as well.

IN A RECENT column I recapped the tremendous spring sports year for our local schools. In the story, I highlighted the fact that Columbia County had produced a pair of Division I track signees. Well, I must apologize for not including Sarah Bowles of Lakeside. Bowles signed in February to run track and cross country at Georgia Tech.

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