MLB

Mitch Keller getting promoted to Pirates

PITTSBURGH — Ready or not, here comes Mitch Keller.
Keller, the Pirates’ No. 1 prospect per MLB Pipeline, will make his Major League debut as part of Pittsburgh’s doubleheader against the Reds on Monday at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, industry sources told MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo.
Keller, MLB Pipeline’s

PITTSBURGH — Ready or not, here comes Mitch Keller.

Keller, the Pirates’ No. 1 prospect per MLB Pipeline, will make his Major League debut as part of Pittsburgh’s doubleheader against the Reds on Monday at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, industry sources told MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo.

Keller, MLB Pipeline’s No. 21 overall prospect, will not make his scheduled start on Sunday for Triple-A Indianapolis. Instead, the 23-year-old right-hander will step into the Pirates’ injury-depleted rotation on Monday.

Pittsburgh was initially hesitant to call up Keller from Triple-A, as he only recently added a hard slider to an arsenal that also includes a fastball, curveball and changeup. The Pirates wanted Keller to get comfortable with his new offering and learn how it complements his other pitches away from the spotlight of the Majors.

“It would be like bringing up a hitter when he’s in the middle of a mechanical change,” general manager Neal Huntington said on May 5. “Now is not the right time to do that. … We’ll show a willingness to do that in the right situation.”

Recent circumstances made this the right situation, especially with a doubleheader on deck. The Pirates are without Opening Day starter Jameson Taillon, right-hander Trevor Williams and a handful of relievers. Left-hander Steven Brault and righty Nick Kingham struggled in their transition from the bullpen to the rotation, leading the Bucs to implement an opener in front of them.

While that strategy has taxed the Bucs’ beleaguered bullpen, Keller has seemingly turned a corner in Triple-A. On May 14, he held Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to two runs on three hits and struck out eight over six innings. On Tuesday, he struck out six and allowed only one run over a season-high seven innings against Louisville.

The Pirates drafted Keller out of Xavier High School in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in the second round of the 2014 Draft. He worked his way through their system and began last season with Double-A Altoona, where he posted a 2.72 ERA in 14 starts. He earned a promotion to Triple-A in late June, started in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game, then thrived in his final eight starts for Indianapolis, posting a 3.09 ERA.

Keller reported to Major League Spring Training this year and struggled, giving up 10 runs on 10 hits in four innings over three appearances. But the Pirates’ pitching depth has already been tested in a way they didn’t expect. Down went Taillon, Williams and prospect JT Brubaker. The bullpen, which might have been well-equipped for the opener strategy at full strength, lost a handful of key members due to injuries or ineffectiveness.

Keller’s time with the Pirates might be brief. If he starts the second game of Monday’s doubleheader, he could be recalled as Pittsburgh’s designated 26th man and immediately sent back to Triple-A. The Pirates will eventually return to full strength, though Taillon isn’t expected to be back until July at the earliest, and the Bucs are sincere in their desire for Keller to get more seasoning in the Minors.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.





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