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It’s been a long wait for pitcher MacGregor

Minor leaguers everywhere had to wait a long time to be able to play baseball again this season. Then there’s Curve pitcher Travis MacGregor, who had to wait an excruciatingly long time.

When MacGregor takes the mound to start tonight against Bowie at Peoples Natural Gas Field, it will be his first game since Aug. 19 way back in 2018.

He suffered an injury for West Virginia and had to undergo Tommy John surgery that caused him to miss the entire 2019 season.

Then, when MacGregor was ready to return in 2020, the minor league season was canceled because of COVID.

“I’m pretty excited just personally, getting back into baseball after Tommy John,” MacGregor said. “I’ve been down for 2¢ years, that’s been how long it’s been since I’ve played in a real game.”

MacGregor was the Pirates’ second-round draft choice in 2016 out of East Lake High School in Florida, so he entered pro ball with very high expectations. But he had a rough go of it at rookie-level Bristol in 2017, posting a 7.84 ERA in 12 starts, allowing 61 hits in 40• innings.

Things turned around, though, for MacGregor in 2018. He began working with former Pirates pitcher Joel Hanrahan, who was the pitching coach for the West Virginia Power, and they overhauled his mechanics.

It paid off in a big way.

MacGregor posted a 3.25 ERA in 15 starts for the Power, giving up only 58 hits and striking out 74 in 63ª innings. His fastball velocity was up to the 93-95 mph range, and everything seemed to be going just as planned for the high draft pick.

“We made some pretty good strides in ’18. That was certainly my best professional year,” MacGregor said.

“We did tweak a little bit of the mechanics, as far as trying to shorten up the arm path. … Trying to make it to where my delivery is as safe as possible.”

Unfortunately, just when he started to hit his stride in pro ball, MacGregor had to deal with the injury setback — a big one with Tommy John surgery.

But all of that is now in the past. Now it’s time to play ball again.

“I’m pretty excited just to be back doing it,” the 23-year-old right-hander from Clearwater, Fla. said.

MacGregor did have some good fortune during his rehab in Bradenton, as he got to work out alongside Pirates pitchers Chad Kuhl and Edgar Santana, both of whom also were coming back from Tommy John surgery.

“It truly was a blessing in disguise for me,” MacGregor said of being around those pitchers. “It was awesome to talk to those guys. I truly took that time and picked their brains.”

Tommy John surgery has become very common in baseball, and many pitchers have been able to bounce back effectively from it. But they’ve done so while getting back to pitching competitively a year later, while MacGregor had to take off an extra year because of minor league shutdown in 2019.

“While I certainly didn’t have the physical gain of the year of playing, mentally I made strides I couldn’t have made playing,” MacGregor said.

Now it’s time to get back out on the mound and see what he’s capable of doing. And MacGregor will finally get that chance tonight.

“I’m just excited to be here,” he said. “I think this is going to be fun.”

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