Series Preview: Pirates open the season in Miami against the Marlins

The wait is finally over - on Thursday afternoon, the Pittsburgh Pirates will begin their 2024 season in Miami against the Miami Marlins. 

Mar 20, 2024; Tampa, Florida, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Oneil Cruz (15) doubles during the
Mar 20, 2024; Tampa, Florida, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Oneil Cruz (15) doubles during the / Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports
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PROJECTED PITCHING MATCHUPS

THURSDAY: Mitch Keller (RHP) vs Jesus Luzardo (LHP)

As previously established, Mitch Keller, fresh off his extension this spring, will be the Pirates opening day starter this year and will take on Marlins' ace Jesus Luzardo on Thursday.

Keller posted a 4.50 ERA this spring across 12 innings, allowing six earned runs across 12 hits and six walks. Last season, Keller posted a 4.21 ERA across 32 starts and 194.1 innings pitched. He struck out 210 in those 194 innings while walking just 55. His ERA+ puts him slightly above league average at 105.

Luzardo, a former Oakland Athletic, was picked by Miami at the 2021 trade deadline in exchange for former Pirate Starling Marte, and after a rough first half-season with the club, he has bounced back very well the last two seasons in Miami.

In 2022-2023 combined, Luzardo posted a 14-17 record with a 3.48 ERA in 50 games and 279 innings pitched. He has struck out 328 while walking 90, he's posted an ERA of 125. For his career, he has a 26.8% strikeout rate and an 8.4% walk rate. Last season, at his age 25-season had a 3.58 ERA in 32 starts, pitching a career high 178.2 innings and striking out 208. He posted a career best ERA+ of 125.

FRIDAY: Martin Perez (LHP) vs AJ Puk (LHP)

Martin Perez has earned the No. 2 spot in the rotation after a nice spring. He'll go up against Marlins left hander A.J. Puk will be making his first career major league start after 142 career appearances as a reliever.

Puk, the No. 6 pick in the 2016 MLB Draft was originally an outstanding starter at the University of Florida but made the transition to the bullpen after missing the entirety of the 2018 season in the minors due to Tommy John. Through his first 142 career games, Puk has been solid, posting a 3.72 ERA in 147.2 innings pitched with 183 strikeouts and 47 walks.

Perez will be making his Pirates debut on Friday after winning a World Series with Texas last season. The Venezuelan left hander will be turning 33 next week on April 4. Last season, Perez had a solid season, recording a 10-4 record in 35 games and 20 starts while posting a 4.45 ERA in 141.2 innings pitched. He had an ERA of 100 and a FIP of 4.99. This spring, Perez was very good, allowing just one earned run in 15 innings pitched, a 0.60 ERA. For his career, Perez owns a 4.44 ERA and a 1.442 WHIP across 288 games and 1,440 innings pitched.

SATURDAY: Jared Jones (RHP) vs Ryan Weathers (LHP)

On Saturday, Jared Jones will make his major league debut after a fantastic spring training that saw the Pirates top-five prospects dominate opposing hitters. He'll be opposed by left hander Ryan Weathers who has been up-and-down between the majors and minors the last three seasons, making 46 appearances including 31 starts.

Weathers through those 46 games owns a 5-15 record and a 5.88 ERA in 156 innings pitched. Last season, he made three appearances including two starts, allowing 11 earned runs in 13 innings pitched.

Jones quickly worked through the Pirates minor league system over the last three seasons, appearing in 70 games, making 66 starts and totaling 315 innings pitched. This spring, he allowed no earned runs in 16.1 innings pitched striking out 15 while walking eight.

SUNDAY: Bailey Falter (LHP) vs Trevor Rogers (LHP)

To round out the series on Sunday it will be Bailey Falter who is coming off a rough spring versus a fourth Marlins lefty in Trevor Rogers.

Rogers is two years removed from a very good 2021 season in which he had a 2.64 ERA in 133 innings pitched and 25 starts. In 2022, he was unable to follow up that stellar season, posting a 5.47 ERA in 107 innings before being shut down last season after just four games with a right lat strain and bicep strain in his throwing shoulder.

Falter enters his fourth year in the Majors and his first full season with the Pirates. Last year, after being traded to Pittsburgh at the deadline for Rodolfo Castro, Falter pitched to the tune of a 5.58 ERA in 10 games and 40.1 innings pitched. The 26-year old left hander struggled this spring with a 7.88 ERA in 16.0 innings pitched.