Barrett Barnes thinks Tracy McGrady might have something special.
McGrady, trying out as a pitcher for the Sugar Land Skeeters of the independent Atlantic League, threw to stand-in hitters for the first time in a 20-minute bullpen session Monday and impressed, according to a local TV report.
"He's so tall and his arms are so long. His downward slope, you're not going to see that too often," Barnes, a minor league outfielder in the Pittsburgh Pirates' organization, told KRIV-TV. "When you have a presence like that on the mound, it's really hard to settle in and be comfortable hitting."
Barnes, a first-round draft pick for Pittsburgh in 2012, was among the minor league hitters who stood in the batter's box as McGrady threw, and he said the two-time NBA scoring champion could use his length to add perceived speed to his pitches.
"Say his [velocity] is 87, but with his arms and his body, it feels like it's 90-91," Barnes said, according to the Houston Fox affiliate.
"His velo might [be] lower, but it feels like it gets on you way faster," added Barnes, a Sugar Land native chosen 45th overall in 2012 by the Pirates.
McGrady made seven consecutive All-Star Games from 2001 to 2007. The 6-foot-8 McGrady, a natural right-hander, was drafted out of high school with the ninth overall pick in 1997 by the Toronto Raptors.
McGrady also played for the Rockets, the Knicks, Detroit and Atlanta, and was on the Spurs' postseason roster last season. He retired with more than 18,000 points and more than 5,000 rebounds in his career.
Kansas City Royals minor league outfielder Daniel Rockett also said McGrady's height could work to his advantage.
"With a dude that big it's like he's in the box with you," Rockett said, according to KRIV-TV.
McGrady said he has taken in a great deal already from the veterans.
"[Spinks] taught me a lot, mechanics, and just a lot of things I didn't know about pitching, and I'm using that to my advantage," McGrady said.
"I also have Roger Clemens out here. What better person to have teaching you some things about pitching than Roger Clemens?"
Spinks said facing the stand-in hitters was key for McGrady in his development, according the report, and that he would face live hitting next week.
"It gives him a gauge to see where he's at," Spinks said. "Just to let us know if he's going to back off if there are hitters at the plate, which he didn't. As a matter of fact, he said that 'I want them to know I'm a little wild.'"