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August 17. 2012 1:04AM

Kevin Gray's On Baseball: McGuire's season of learning continues


Fisher Cats pitcher Deck McGuire, talks with a teammate before the game last night, as the New Hampshire Fisher Cats host the Binghamton Mets at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium, in Manchester on Thursday. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)
MANCHESTER --- Deck McGuire had bucket duty during batting practice, meaning he stood behind a protective net in center field and gathered all the loose baseballs thrown in his direction. Then he ran all the stairs at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium.

He's trying. McGuire, Toronto's top pick in the 2010 draft, has been putting in the work without seeing positive results. The righty lost his Eastern League-leading 14th game on Wednesday, the most losses in Minor League Baseball.

Good friend Chad Jenkins, recently called up by the Blue Jays, is now living the dream. On the same night Jenkins threw a scoreless inning against the White Sox, McGuire (5-14, 6.26 ERA) was dealt his third straight loss with the Fisher Cats.

“It's been a good learning experience from top to bottom,” said McGuire. “This year has been more of a struggle, but it's all part of the development process. I'm just trying to go out and give it everything I can just like all 25 guys in that clubhouse. It's been one of those years where you just try to keep going.”

The 6-foot-6 McGuire doesn't generate many swings and misses, and when his fastball elevates, there isn't much room for error.

“When he pitches in the bottom half (of the strike zone) and gets ahead in counts, that's when Deck is good,” Dane Johnson, Toronto's minor-league pitching coordinator, said. “It all comes down to execution of pitches.”

McGuire, 23, has plenty of time to iron out his delivery. And given the fact he signed for $2 million out of Georgia Tech, he'll get plenty of opportunity.

“I've had some good starts and bad starts. I need to be more consistent and limit the damage when things get a little rough,” McGuire said before Thursday night's game against Binghamton. “I need to stay composed and finish the job.”

Eight first rounders in the 2010 draft have reached the majors, including No. 1 overall pick Bryce Harper. McGuire's ERA has climbed in each professional season, rising from 2.75 (Advanced-A Dunedin) to 4.35 (New Hampshire) and up to 6.26 this season.

Toronto has developed an abundance of pitching from within the organization, including All-Star lefty Ricky Romero and righty Henderson Alvarez, but the Blue Jays haven't had much luck with their No. 1 picks in recent years. Romero labored in Double-A for three years before developing into a front-line lefty.

Other hits and misses since the 2005 draft:

Hits

-- Catcher J.P. Arencibia (2007) belted 23 homers in 2011, the club's single-season leader for home runs by a catcher. Noah Syndergaard (2010), a power righty, recently notched his 103rd strikeout in his 87th inning at low-A Lansing. Teammate Aaron Sanchez (2010, supplemental first-round), a righty, is another hot prospect to watch. Romero has met expectations in the big leagues.

Misses

-- Outfielder Travis Snider didn't live up to expectations after being drafted 14th overall in 2006. He was outplayed by Eric Thames the past two seasons, then traded to Pittsburgh in July. Infielder Kevin Ahrens has been unable to escape A-ball since being the 16th overall pick in 2007. First baseman David Cooper, the team's No. 1 pick in 2008, has been a swing and miss.

-- Righty Tyler Beede from Lawrence Academy in Groton, Mass., was Toronto's No. 1 overall pick last season, but he did not sign, electing to play at Vanderbilt. In 2009, the Jays selected lefty James Paxton in the supplemental first-round but couldn't hammer out a contract. He went to Kentucky and eventually was drafted by the Mariners. (The Blue Jays received compensation draft picks after their first-round picks failed to sign.)

Still unknown

-- Jenkins, called up from New Hampshire last week, has pitched better in the majors than he ever did here. The sinkerballer has thrown 5 2/3 scoreless innings since leaving the Fisher Cats, for whom he posted a 5-9 record and 4.96 ERA.

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GAME DAY: Tonight the Fisher Cats open a three-game series against Pirates affiliate Altoona.

The Curve's Gerrit Cole, Pittsburgh's No. 1 pick in last year's draft, is not scheduled to pitch in Manchester. Cole earned an $8 million signing bonus last August.

Righty Phil Irwin (4-7, 2.93 ERA), another Pirates prospect, will start tonight against New Hampshire, opposed by Fisher Cats righthander Ryan Tepera (6-2, 4.58 ERA).

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Staff writer Kevin Gray covers pro baseball for the New Hampshire Union Leader and New Hampshire Sunday News. His email address is kgray@unionleader.com. Twitter: @graymatter11.

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