For Moskos, journey has been invaluable

For Moskos, journey has been invaluable

For Moskos, journey has been invaluable
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Much has happened since Daniel Moskos last participated in Major League camp with the Pirates in 2008.

The three-year journey back has been undeniably circuitous, and it definitely didn't progress on the timetable Moskos initially anticipated. And yet, the 24-year-old lefty seems every bit genuine when he insists that he is a better pitcher for having gone through a sometimes slowed and frustrating climb that still hasn't culminated in his Pittsburgh arrival.

"I've matured and learned a lot over the past three seasons -- last year, especially," Moskos said. "I've had to grow up and mature a lot. It doesn't always work out the way you plan. I feel ready."

Ready, that is, to compete for a spot on the Major League club.

Moskos' chances of denting the team's Opening Day roster dwindled when the Pirates addressed their need for a left-handed reliever by inking Joe Beimel to a Minor League deal just before the start of Spring Training. Don't tell that to Moskos, however, as he has every intention of proving that it's his time. And if not ready now, that he is finally close.

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The left-hander's climb through the Pirates' farm system endured a rocky start, though that was hardly Moskos' fault. Public and media backlash at the Pirates' decision to take Moskos -- instead of highly-touted catcher Matt Wieters -- with the No. 4 pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, forced the left-hander to defend himself from Day One.

Externally, there were continuous comparisons between Moskos and Wieters, who made his Major League debut in '09. Moskos, on the other hand, finished 2010 in Double-A.

All of this outside chit-chat, Moskos said, has never been of much concern to him.

"The truth of it is that I just tried to flush it and not worry about it at all," he said. "I'm sure there are still some people who are upset, but it's one of those things that I can't let affect the way that I go about the game. I'm my own harshest critic. I try to be the best that I can be on a daily basis. That's all I can really worry about."

The will-he-be-a-starter-or-reliever questions that trailed Moskos the last few springs are gone now, too. The lefty moved into a full-time relief role last season after two years of pitching primarily as a starter. There seems to be little question that the bullpen role suits him better.

Durability is no longer a factor. Neither are those drops in velocity that Moskos endured as a starter.

"I'm a way better pitcher now, having had the two years of starting experience," Moskos said. "I had to work through some kinks. I had to deal with a downgrade in stuff, and learn how to pitch and develop a third pitch. Those are weapons and things I'm going to take forward that can't be replaced. I had to go through that."

Used primarily as Double-A Altoona's closer, Moskos thrived last year. He converted 21 of 22 save opportunities and had an ERA of 1.45 when he was promoted to Triple-A Indianapolis on June 25.

The transition to Triple-A started off fine, but after five straight scoreless appearances, Moskos inexplicably lost his command. It started as a physical issue -- Moskos had some mechanical flaws that began to appear in his delivery -- but then snowballed into a mental obstacle.

"He stopped throwing it over," said Pirates director of player development Kyle Stark. "He just didn't attack the zone like he did in Double-A."

A demotion back to Altoona followed Moskos' turbulent stint with Indianapolis, and it was there that Moskos regained his footing -- and his delivery. He closed out the season by allowing just two earned runs in 10 1/3 innings, and converted all five save opportunities in the Eastern League playoffs.

Moskos has his eye on Pittsburgh now, and the Pirates spent much of the winter listing Moskos as a candidate for a bullpen that lacks many left-handed options. He had his first chance to make an impression on the coaching staff in Saturday's game and responded with a scoreless inning of work in which he walked one.

Still, given that Moskos hasn't had much Triple-A success yet, Indianapolis appears the likeliest destination for the start of the season.

There is an expectation, however, that no matter where Moskos starts the year he should be ready to end it in the big leagues. If he does, Moskos will join five of the other top 10 picks from that '07 Draft who have already beaten him there -- though he let go of all comparisons a long time ago.

"It's been a process," Moskos said. "But I feel like I'm getting better one day at a time."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.