Pittsburgh Pirates: Mitch Keller Set For Spring Debut

Sep 25, 2020; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Mitch Keller (23) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 25, 2020; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Mitch Keller (23) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /
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Mitch Keller will make his 2021 spring debut on Tuesday afternoon as the former top prospects prepares to embark on an important season with the Pittsburgh Pirates

Sunday afternoon the Pittsburgh Pirates traveled to Sarasota to play the Baltimore Orioles in their first Grapefruit League game of the 2021 spring schedule. In Sunday’s game Chad Kuhl made the start and pitched a scoreless inning. Wil Crowe, Clay Holmes and Nick Mears all pitched a scoreless inning as well.

Offensively, the long ball led the way for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 6-4 victory. Gregory Polanco hit a 2-run home run in the 1st inning, making his Pirate debut veteran Todd Frazier added a solo blast in the 5th inning.

Tuesday afternoon the Pittsburgh Pirates will travel to Dunedin for game number two of the Grapefruit League season. Awaiting the Pirates in Dunedin will be the Toronto Blue Jays. Mitch Keller is scheduled to start for the Pirates in his 2021 spring debut.

2021 will be an important season for Keller. After an unsustainably high batting average on balls in play in 2019 led to an ERA over 7.00 and an unsustainably low BAbip led to an ERA under 3.00 in 2020, Keller will be looking for some normalcy, as well as improvement, this season.

Keller still possesses all the tools needed to be a top of the rotation starting pitcher. He was a consensus top 50 prospect for a reason. Now it is up to Keller to refine his plus stuff, improve his control and generate more swings-and-misses.

After posting a strong 7.0% walk rate and 28.6% strikeout rate in 2019, these numbers regressed to 20.7% and 18.4% in Keller’s injury shortened 2020 season. Also, his home run rate jumped from 1.13 HR/9 to 1.66 HR/9. This season, Keller will be looking to get each of those numbers back to his 2019 form.

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First pitch from TD Ballpark in Dunedin is scheduled for 1:07 PM. You can listen to the game on the flagship station of the Pittsburgh Pirates, 93.7 The Fan, as well as on MLB.com. Tuesday afternoon’s game against the Detroit Tigers will be AT&T SportsNet’s first Grapefruit League broadcast.

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