The Pittsburgh Pirates have announced who will toe the rubber for them in their Grapefruit League opener on Saturday afternoon and more notes from Bradenton
At 1:05 p.m. on Saturday afternoon the Pittsburgh Pirates will kick off Grapefruit League play. They will do so by welcoming the Minnesota Twins to LECOM Park in Bradenton.
When the Twins come to town, young righty Mitch Keller will toe the rubber for the Pirates. As Keller looks to make 2020 a breakout campaign, he will kick off Grapefruit League play for the Pirates.
“It’s cool to know that I’ve got the first one and we’ll build off of that,” Keller told reporters on Thursday. Keller be tabbed the starter for Saturday is due to how pitching coach Oscar Marin wants to set up Keller’s spring. Odds are, the Opening Day start in Tampa Bay on March 26th will still go to long time Tampa Bay Ray starter Chris Archer.
This season, Keller will be looking to improve on a frustrating 2019 campaign. Keller posted an ugly 7.13 ERA for the Pirates in 48 innings across 11 starts. However, his .475 batting average on balls in play was one of the highest in MLB history for a pitcher with at least 10 starts. It is also unsustainably high and indicates he was victimized by awful defense and/or luck.
Despite the ERA, he posted a strong 3.19 FIP and a 1.3 fWAR. This would put him on pace to be worth around 4 wins over the course of a full season. His 7.1% walk rate and 28.6% strikeout rate were both strong, too. Pirate fans should expect big things out of Keller in 2020.
After missing a live bullpen session earlier in the week due to a sickness, Keone Kela threw his first live bullpen session on spring on Thursday. Fifth starter candidates Derek Holland and Steven Brault also threw live BP sessions. Reliever Kyle Crick, and fellow bullpen candidates Chris Stratton and Edgar Santana did as well.