Pirates’ Geoff Hartlieb Reflects on Found Success in 2020, Looks Forward to 2021

2020 was a forgettable year for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Although they struggled, there were a few bright spots, such as Geoff Hartlieb. The Pirates reliever had a breakout season and was one of their best pitchers. While Hartlieb proved to be an important piece, he has had a unique path to the majors.

In the 2016 MLB draft, the Pirates selected Hartlieb with the 885th overall pick. After four seasons in the minors, the Illinois native made his MLB debut in 2019 and appeared in 29 games. Although Hartlieb struggled in his first major league stint, he became the first player from the Pirates 2016 draft class to reach the majors.

“I take a lot of pride in that,” Hartlieb said. “The Pirates drafted me 885th overall, and when you are drafted that low, the odds are slim. In my first Spring Training, I gave it my all and made a good first impression. I’ve been able to capitalize on my opportunities so far, and I’m thankful that I’ve been able to develop in this organization.”

After posting a 9.00 ERA in 2019, Hartlieb changed his approach last season. The Pirates reliever began to use his four-seam fastball less and used his sinker and slider more. The changes showed at the big league level as he posted a 3.63 ERA in 21 games. The new approach made the Lindenwood State product less predictable as he held opponents to a .205 average.

“The biggest thing for me was clarity from our coaching staff and the people they brought in,” Hartielb said. ” I was trying to do a lot. I was a four-pitch guy. They told me to focus on the sinker and slider so that they could play off each other. Knowing exactly what they wanted was huge in Spring Training and when I was at the alternate site. ”

What to Expect from Hartlieb In 2021

With Opening Day only weeks away, Hartlieb will be looking to build off last year’s success. The Pirates righty looked more confident in the majors and was nearly unhittable with runners in scoring position. In those situations, opponents only hit .074 off Hartlieb, and he only allowed 11.1 percent of inherited runners to score, which was the fourth-best mark in the majors. Although those situations can be unpredictable, Hartlieb excelled.

“Last year I played the fireman role,”  Hartlieb said. “I came in a lot of the time with guys on base and tried to get the team out of certain situations. It’s a lot harder knowing when you are going to pitch. But that’s fine, I liked doing it and if it helps the team win I’m fine with that. ”

In 2021 Hartlieb’s main goal is to prove that he can be a reliable piece. The Pirates have been one of baseball’s busiest teams this offseason and their focus will be on having their young players develop. Despite Hartlieb’s success the Pirates righty is looking to prove that last year was no fluke.

“This year, I want to establish a role for myself,” Hartlieb said. “I want to be extremely reliable so that when Shelton calls down, he knows what he is getting. Be the same guy as often as possible that’s the end goal.”

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