BRADENTON, Fla. -- There have been plenty of productive relievers in the Pirates' Spring Training camp, guys with names and resumes. Yet one of the most interesting emerging stories is a tall left-hander with a sidearm delivery.
Most people probably mistook Brandon Mann for one of the many young Minor Leaguers who regularly parade through the big league clubhouse and Grapefruit League box scores, starting their journeys in baseball.
Actually, Mann is a 29-year-old who has ridden the rails for 12 years since being a 27th-round Draft pick of Tampa Bay. He spent the first nine of those years never rising above Double-A, so Mann took his left arm to Japan for the 2011-12 seasons. He did not pitch at all last year.
But he became one of the Bucs' busiest lefties the latter half of this preseason, appearing in six games and allowing only a run in 4 2/3 innings, with four strikeouts and -- managers love this about southpaws -- no walks.
"He's been interesting," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle agreed. "He's shown good fastball command. He's been put through the ringer. He was asked to pitch, get up, get down, do different things. We kept an interested eye on him, no doubt."
The first thing that probably caught that eye is that wrinkle in Mann's delivery -- he'll lift his right leg and balance on the left one for a beat before continuing the windup, a hitch that throws off batters.
"He's got that little hitch in his get-along," Hurdle said. "And he'll ambush off that. After you think he's rocked you to sleep, he'll go without the hitch and is right on you. That's one of the reasons we kept bringing him in. Most important is where he goes next, the quality and volume of work that he can pick up."
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less