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Crick finishing with a kick in first Bucs season

Righty has laid claim to 8th-inning role; injury updates on Cervelli, Kuhl, Diaz
September 17, 2018

PITTSBURGH -- Coming up through the Giants' Minor League system, Kyle Crick developed his pregame routine by watching other pitchers, experimenting with parts of their process and seeing what worked for him. He liked to see how Player Page for Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner, two pitchers known as workhorses,

PITTSBURGH -- Coming up through the Giants' Minor League system, Kyle Crick developed his pregame routine by watching other pitchers, experimenting with parts of their process and seeing what worked for him. He liked to see how Player Page for Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner, two pitchers known as workhorses, prepared themselves each day.
"Good guys to watch, for sure," Crick said.
Crick is setting a fine example this season, too. The 25-year-old right-hander entered Monday night with a 2.56 ERA and 58 strikeouts in 56 1/3 innings over a career-high 60 appearances. Only two years removed from starting in the Minor Leagues, Crick has held up well despite the physical and mental stresses associated with high-leverage relief pitching.
"I feel pretty good. Confidence is there. Body feels pretty good, for the most part," Crick said. "We're just trying to finish strong. That's all we can do, really, at this point."
Called up in mid-April, Crick quickly earned a high-leverage role in Pittsburgh's bullpen and taken over the eighth inning. Crick has worked the eighth 41 times this season, posting a 3.00 ERA. With Keone Kelashut down this month, Crick is once again the top setup man for closer Felipe Vazquez.
According to FanGraphs, he has the Pirates' fourth-highest average Leverage Index when entering games this season behind Vazquez, Opening Day setup man George Kontos and Kela. He also ranks fourth among Pirates pitchers in Win Probability Added (1.29), trailing Vazquez (3.23) and starters Jameson Taillon and Trevor Williams.
"I think he's done a really professional job," manager Clint Hurdle said. "A lot of firsts for him this year. He's learning. He's figuring some things out. … A lot of gainful experience this year that, I believe, is going to do nothing but make him better moving forward."
Around the horn
• Catcher Francisco Cervelli was scratched from Monday's lineup due to flu-like symptoms. Jacob Stallings got the nod behind the plate, batting eighth.
• Catcher Elias Diaz (hamstring) passed his running tests on Sunday, was available off the bench on Monday and should start at some point during this homestand.
• Right-hander Chad Kuhl will have his forearm and elbow re-examined on Tuesday in New York by Dr. David Altchek. Kuhl has not pitched since June 26. He was unable to throw his scheduled bullpen session last week in St. Louis.
• With Ray Searage set to undergo cervical neck surgery this week, assistant pitching coach Justin Meccage is serving as interim pitching coach. Hurdle said he expects it will be a smooth transition while Searage is away, given Meccage's involvement throughout the season.
"But there's always a little bit of a difference when dad's not in the room," Hurdle said, smiling. "Ray has a lot of confidence in Justin's skills, as we all do. This is an opportunity that we'll move upon to get him some more experience."
The only odd thing for Meccage might be mound visits. Since he was a pitching coordinator last year and an assistant pitching coach this season, he hasn't made that walk from the dugout to the mound since 2016.

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