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Kuhl makes Pirates' Opening Day rotation

Polanco will take at-bats in Minor League game on Wednesday
MLB.com

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Pirates general manager Neal Huntington made it official: Chad Kuhl is in the Opening Day rotation. The second-year right-hander will start Pittsburgh's third game of the season April 6 at Fenway Park.

Huntington and manager Clint Hurdle said throughout the offseason and Spring Training that Kuhl was on the "inside track" for a rotation spot after a solid rookie season. Huntington confirmed Tuesday that Kuhl, scheduled to start the Pirates' exhibition against the Blue Jays in Montreal on Saturday, is lined up to pitch the series finale in Boston.

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Pirates general manager Neal Huntington made it official: Chad Kuhl is in the Opening Day rotation. The second-year right-hander will start Pittsburgh's third game of the season April 6 at Fenway Park.

Huntington and manager Clint Hurdle said throughout the offseason and Spring Training that Kuhl was on the "inside track" for a rotation spot after a solid rookie season. Huntington confirmed Tuesday that Kuhl, scheduled to start the Pirates' exhibition against the Blue Jays in Montreal on Saturday, is lined up to pitch the series finale in Boston.

Gerrit Cole is set to start Opening Day. Jameson Taillon and Kuhl will follow, and Ivan Nova will start the Pirates' home opener at PNC Park on April 7. The final spot in Pittsburgh's rotation remains unsettled.

On the mend
Huntington said left fielder Gregory Polanco (left shoulder discomfort) is "feeling better" and added later on the ROOT Sports telecast that Polanco will take at-bats in a Minor League game at Pirate City on Wednesday. Will he be ready for Opening Day?

"We've still got some time there, and we remain optimistic that things will come together," Huntington said. "We're just trying to be cautious and want to get guys out of the gate as healthy as possible. … We're still optimistic that he'll be a go."

Catcher Chris Stewart (groin discomfort) participated in some drills during Tuesday's workout at LECOM Park. Huntington said the Pirates will further evaluate Stewart later this week. If Stewart is not ready for Opening Day, the Bucs could place him on the 10-day disabled list and recall catcher Elias Diaz from Triple-A to back up Francisco Cervelli.

"It's still too early to tell with either of those guys," Huntington said of Stewart and Polanco. "We like Elias Diaz a lot. … If Chris is unable to go, then we fully anticipate that Diaz would come back."

Webb's gem
Left-hander Tyler Webb enjoyed his best outing of the spring Monday night, striking out four batters while allowing one hit over three efficient innings against the Twins. That will give the Pirates something to think about as they decide whether to keep Webb, their Rule 5 Draft pick, or offer him back to the Yankees.

"Good time to have a good outing," Huntington said. "Tyler still fits into that mix. He does some things that we like and picked a good day to have a good day."

Webb's status is complicated by the rules governing Rule 5 Draft picks; the Pirates must keep him on their active roster all season, return him to the Yankees or run him through the waiver process.

"I think you just try to block it out as much as possible, focus on where you are now and not worry about it," Webb said. "There's so many position battles in this clubhouse, it's not like I'm in the most unique situation."

Webb is pleased with the progress he's made this spring and felt it all came together Tuesday night. He served as a swing man for the Yankees' Triple-A Wilkes-Barre/Scranton last year, making spot starts and multi-inning relief appearances. The Pirates have room in their bullpen for a long-relief lefty, whether it's Webb or veteran Wade LeBlanc. Is Webb ready for that role?

"I'll do whatever they want," Webb said, smiling. "I'll be the bat boy if they want."

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

Pittsburgh Pirates, Chad Kuhl