PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates will continue to shuffle their injury-depleted rotation this weekend, moving Rookie Davis out of the bullpen to start against the Brewers on Friday at Miller Park.
“Nick’s performance level as a starter hasn’t been what he wants or what we want. We talked about it yesterday,” manager Clint Hurdle said on Wednesday. “This opportunity in the bullpen, maybe he can help us stabilize there, maybe take smaller bites out of a lineup and pitch. Rookie, until last night, he had been effective.”
Davis, who was in Triple-A Indianapolis' rotation before being called up, allowed a home run during a three-run ninth in Pittsburgh’s 12-5 loss to Atlanta on Tuesday night at PNC Park. The 26-year-old right-hander, signed to a Minor League deal in February, gave up two runs and struck out seven in 6 2/3 innings over his first three relief appearances for the Pirates. Friday will be Davis’ first Major League start since Sept. 20, 2017.
The nod will not go to top prospect Mitch Keller, even though he’s scheduled to start that night in Triple-A. After allowing six runs in the first inning of his Major League debut on May 27, Keller pitched three scoreless innings against the Reds. After the start, he was optioned back to Indianapolis. Keller most recently allowed two runs on three hits and two walks while striking out five in six innings for Indianapolis on Sunday.
“He made some progress. He threw more strikes, didn’t have the first-inning complications that he had in Cincinnati,” Hurdle said. “He’s working on pitch refinement. He’s working on pitch execution. It was a good Triple-A outing.”
Brault has shown some encouraging signs over his past four outings, logging a 2.45 ERA, but he has also recorded more walks (12) than strikeouts (11) during that time. The Pirates would like to see the left-hander put together more performances like his start in Cincinnati on May 29, when he worked 5 1/3 scoreless innings with five strikeouts and two walks.
The good news for the Pirates’ rotation is that at least one pitcher is working his way back to good health.
Right-hander Trevor Williams threw a bullpen session on Wednesday afternoon. He is lined up to pitch a simulated game on Saturday in Milwaukee. If all goes well, he would then throw a five-inning rehab start on June 13. That would make June 18 the earliest possible return date for Williams, who owns the lowest ERA of any Pirates starter this season.
• Starter Jameson Taillon (right elbow flexor tendon strain) and reliever Keone Kela (right shoulder inflammation) will continue their rehabilitation at the Pirate City complex in Bradenton, Fla., while the Pirates embark on their upcoming 10-day road trip. Taillon and Kela left Pittsburgh on Wednesday along with rehabbing right-handers Chad Kuhl and Edgar Santana (Tommy John surgery, out until 2020).
Taillon is not yet throwing, though director of sports medicine Todd Tomczyk said he is doing gripping exercises. Kela recently said he’s seen “a lot of improvements” in his shoulder.
• Reliever Nick Burdi (nerve issue in right biceps) is making “slow and steady progress” in his rehab, Tomczyk said. He has not yet been cleared to throw, however.
• Right-hander Chris Stratton (right side discomfort) is scheduled to throw a simulated game this weekend in Milwaukee.
• Catcher Francisco Cervelli (concussion) is “still symptomatic,” Tomczyk said, and participating only in light exercises.
• Shortstop Erik Gonzalez (fractured collarbone) has been cleared to resume hitting. In approximately two weeks, he could be ready for a rehab assignment.
• Left fielder Corey Dickerson (right posterior shoulder strain) and infielder Jung Ho Kang (left side strain) are playing without pain on a rehab assignment in Triple-A. Both seem to be nearing a return to the Majors.
• Pitching prospect J.T. Brubaker (right forearm) is playing catch from 120 feet with no issues and could throw off the mound “in the near future,” Tomczyk said.
• Non-roster reliever Brandon Maurer is recovering from left knee surgery at Pirate City.
• Outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall, who has not played for the Pirates this season, is at home and still experiencing continued right calf discomfort, Tomczyk said.