Neverauskas' development evident with Futures nod

Righty looking to become 2nd Lithuanian-born player to make MLB

Neverauskas' development evident with Futures nod

SAN DIEGO -- To call Dovydas Neverauskas' journey to this moment "unlikely" wouldn't do it justice. There is essentially no comparison to his ascent from Vilnius, Lithuania, to the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game.

After seven years in the Minors, a transition to the bullpen and a cultural adjustment to American baseball, he is one call away from the Major Leagues. He could get to show how far he's come on a national stage at Petco Park in San Diego on Sunday.

"It's really been fun to watch him develop into an American baseball player from four or five years ago to now," said Justin Meccage, the pitching coach for Double-A Altoona, where Neverauskas began the season. "He's really matured and turned into a nice Minor League pitcher, hopefully some day a Major League pitcher."

Neverauskas, signed out of Lithuania in July 2009, is the first player to sign directly out of the European country. The only Lithuanian-born player to reach the Majors, Joe Zapustas, emigrated to Boston at a young age and played only two games for the Philadelphia A's in 1933.

Signed by former Pirates scout Tom Randolph, Neverauskas possessed a big arm but little polish or even grasp of the English language. Now?

"You would never know that he's from Lithuania just by talking to him," Meccage said. "It's a dry sense of humor, but a really good person. He's on a mission."

Neverauskas will represent Lithuania for the World Team on Sunday. Someday soon, he could make his home country proud as a Major Leaguer.

"It's awesome," Meccage said. "He's been through a lot over the course of those seven years. He had some success and he's had some struggles. He's finding out who he is and who he's going to be."

Last season, Neverauskas found out he'd be a reliever and climbed from Class A West Virginia to Class A Advanced Bradenton. He took the fast track through Double-A to Triple-A Indianapolis this season after 22 appearances for Altoona.

Neverauskas isn't a highly touted Minor Leaguer like outfielder Austin Meadows, who was selected to play in the Futures Game but bowed out due to a strained hamstring. He's a 23-year-old reliever in Triple-A who you likely won't find on a list of top prospects, not even within the Pirates' deep system.

Two years ago, he went 6-12 with a 5.60 ERA as a 21-year-old starter in Class A ball. But in 10 Triple-A appearances, Neverauskas is 1-1 with a 1.86 ERA, three saves and only one walk in 9 2/3 innings.

The 6-foot-3 right-hander's stuff plays up as a reliever. His fastball sits between 94-97 mph with late life, and it's touched 99 mph this season. He throws a tight slider that clocks in between 90-92 mph, and he's worked on a slider with more depth that sits in the upper 80s.

"It's fun to see that all develop and coming together all at once. I think this kid's got a chance," Meccage said. "He's got a special mentality, not a lot of fear, not really scared of anybody or any situation, which you're always looking for late in games."

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for since 2015. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.