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Gage Hinsz

Billings' Gage Hinsz throws a pitch during a 2017 game with the Bradenton (Fla.) Marauders of the advanced Class A Florida State League.

BILLINGS — Seven months after undergoing open heart surgery, Pittsburgh Pirates prospect and former Billings Scarlets pitcher Gage Hinsz is working his way back into form on the mound.

The right-handed Hinsz, 22, has started four games for Gigantes de Carolina of the Puerto Rican Winter League, posting a 0-1 record and a 1.42 ERA with 15 strikeouts, six walks and a WHIP of 0.95 in 19 innings.

In three of his outings, Hinsz combined to toss 15 shutout innings, including six scoreless frames in his most recent appearance Wednesday.

Hinsz had surgery in May at a Cleveland, Ohio, hospital to repair a failing aortic valve in his heart. While being treated for a heart murmur, the condition was initially discovered during a physical exam at spring training.

After surgery, Hinsz spent the summer rehabbing at the Pirates’ training facility in Florida. He threw during a stint in the fall instructional league in the Dominican Republic and was ultimately invited to participate in the Puerto Rican Winter League.

The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Hinsz pitched with Bradenton in the advanced Class A Florida State League in 2017, going 5-5 with 52 strikeouts, 31 walks and a 5.61 ERA in 94 2/3 innings. He did not pitch competitively during the 2018 minor league season.

Pirates farm director Larry Broadway told in October that Hinsz has made progress in his post-surgery work.

"He looks good on the mound," Broadway was quoted. "The ball is coming out well, it wasn't an arm injury. He's champing at the bit and isn't worried or hesitant."

"He's trending up," Broadway said.

Hinsz, a graduate of Billings West, was drafted in the 11th round by Pittsburgh in 2014. He had originally committed to play baseball at Oregon State University, but chose to sign a professional contract out of high school.

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