In their admirable and exhaustive quest for talent, the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2009 dispatched a scout to Lithuania, a European nation east of Poland and hardly known as a baseball hotbed.
The scout, Tom Randolph, signed 16-year-old right-hander Dovydas Neverauskas, who now throws an occasional 95-mph fastball and, as a member of the Power’s rotation, has distinguished himself as a prospect.
If nothing else, the Neverauskas signing says the Pirates are willing to send scouts wherever it takes.
“We’ve got ’em all over the world,’’ said Power pitching coach Jeff Johnson. “I know we’ve got ’em in Germany and everywhere.’’
Neverauskas made his Appalachian Power Park debut Sunday afternoon, blanked the Lexington Legends through four innings and helped his Power teammates end a five-game losing streak with a 10-6 victory. A paid crowd of 1,095 attended.
He learned baseball from his dad and attended an academy that allowed him to pursue the sport and develop his game. The 21-year-old has been playing for 15 years but admits it’s not a popular game in his native land.
“No, not really,’’ he responded.
Against the Legends, he allowed just four hits, one run and a walk in five innings to pick up the victory and keep his earned run average at 1.80 after two starts. More than anything, he pounded the strike zone.
“The biggest thing he’s doing is throwing his fastball over the plate,’’ said Johnson. “He’s been pretty good at getting ahead of the hitters. He has some downhill angle, which makes it tough on guys. He’s walked a few guys but nothing where he’s created his own problems. Even when he’s gotten behind in counts, he’s been able to throw enough strikes to get them to hit it.’’
And he’s picked up a nickname, a reflection of baseball acceptance.
“We call him Never,’’ said catcher Reese McGuire.
“Neverauskas was awesome today,’ said Johnson. “He’s been good in his first two starts.’’
“I think I did pretty well today and helped the team win,’’ said the 6-foot-3 pitcher, who’s beginning his fifth season of pro ball in America and has picked up the language.
It helped that the Power (4-7) scored a run in the first inning and nine in the second, highlighted by Erich Weiss’s inside-the-park grand slam to build a 10-0 lead that undoubtedly helped Neverauskas relax.
The Power, which entered the game with a league-low .157 batting average with runners in scoring position, didn’t do much hitting in the big second inning. Lexington left-hander Austin Fairchild walked five consecutive batters, hit the sixth, surrendered a two-run double to Danny Collins, and walked another.
Reliever Luke Farrell entered and yielded Weiss’s liner to center that skipped past a diving Alfredo Escalera and rolled to the wall. Weiss scored easily.
Though the Power collected just six hits and committed two errors, the victory ended the losing streak and perhaps will serve as a jump-start.
“We’re still trying to put the puzzle together right now,’’ said McGuire. “I think we all realize how good we can be. We’re kind of showing it here and there, but there’s a lot more we’re capable of doing. Once we get this thing rolling, it’s going to be pretty fun to play out there. It’s going to be scary how good we can be.’’
POWER POINTS: The Power will play host to the Asheville Tourists at 7:05 tonight, Tuesday and Wednesday. ... Weiss’s homer was just the Power’s second of the season. (JaCoby Jones has the other.) Power pitchers have surrendered 10. ... Luke Farrell is the son of Red Sox manager John Farrell. ... Power right-hander Luis Heredia, who experienced shoulder discomfort and left Saturday’s game after one pitch, is apparently OK but likely will miss at least one start, said Johnson. “There’s nothing major that we’re worried about,’’ he said. “Something just got sore, so they’re going to shut him down for a little bit until that goes away.’’
Reach Mike Whiteford at firstname.lastname@example.org.