On Wednesday, Triple-A Indianapolis manager Dean Treanor called Kuhl into his office and told him he was headed to Pittsburgh. The Pirates' No. 16 prospect called his parents to share the good news, then further investigated what he'd be walking into.
"Probably five minutes later, I went on to the Dodgers' Twitter and just kind of scrolled back to see when [Kershaw] threw," Kuhl said. "And it ended up being that day, five days before, so I knew for a while it was going to be a me and Kershaw matchup."
Despite his formidable opponent, Kuhl will try to treat his debut like any other start -- just throw in another deck of fans and Kershaw. This spot start opened up for Kuhl because the Pirates didn't re-introduce Juan Nicasio into the starting rotation, and Kuhl was scheduled to start Saturday for Indianapolis.
Nicasio will remain available to work as a long reliever. He has a 5.83 ERA in 12 starts and one relief appearance this season, but posted a 3.86 ERA out of the Dodgers' bullpen last season.
After three years in the Pirates farm system, Kuhl has made many improvements to his game, including his ability to locate his fastball and become more comfortable throwing his two-seam fastball. He posted a 6-2 record with an ERA of 2.58 and WHIP of 1.19 at Indianapolis this season.
"I would say I'm just a completely different pitcher from a mechanics standpoint and all that, and the mentality of the way the Pirates talk about pitching and teach pitching," Kuhl said. "So I feel like it was a gradual change and a lot of factors that played into that and I thank the Pirates for that."
Kuhl worked out at PNC Park on Friday and has had more time to acclimate to his surroundings than most pitchers recalled from Indianapolis for a start. Plus, the clubhouse is filled with familiar faces.
"I think they had a good plan getting [me] set up and my locker set up," Kuhl said. "Getting comfortable, getting used to being around these guys. Been around a lot of them in Spring Training, so I'm familiar with a lot of faces around here, so it's nice that they did that and they let me get settled and get acclimated a little bit."
Now all that's left is to face the Dodgers with 30-plus friends and family in the stands watching, give or take 30,000 more people.
Sarah K. Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com based in Pittsburgh.