Bucs injury updates: Kela, Moran, Newman

August 26th, 2020

A day after manager Derek Shelton said that closer Keone Kela, infielder Colin Moran and shortstop Kevin Newman are "active" and "available," director of sports medicine Todd Tomczyk clarified each player's status.

Tomczyk confirmed on Wednesday that Kela has yet to pick up a baseball since exiting Friday’s game with tightness in his right forearm and won’t be available to pitch until he throws.

Tomczyk said that Kela -- a candidate to be dealt before Monday’s Trade Deadline -- still has “some tightness” in his arm, but the symptoms specifically in the forearm have “appeared to resolve.” Kela is taking part in advanced plyometric work that will prepare him to throw, but he has not played catch since his five-pitch appearance at PNC Park.

“He’s going to want to be able to throw. I think, as we all can attest to, these things can change quite rapidly,” Tomczyk said. “Once that mindset, the comfort, the symptoms completely resolve, he will throw. I know Keone wants to pitch. He’s shared that with all of us. He just wants to be out there and be with his teammates and do the thing he loves to do, and that’s play baseball.”

Tomczyk added that Moran is still being evaluated for concussion-like symptoms after leaving Sunday’s game following a collision at first base. Moran’s availability, Tomczyk said, is “unknown.”

“With any type of injury to the head, sometimes symptoms resolve," Tomczyk said. "Once they do resolve, we make a medical assessment with our physicians and medical group, then we address them accordingly, then you monitor. If symptoms re-arise, you pivot and make other decisions to [prioritize] both the short- and long-term health of that player. In Colin’s instance, he is experiencing symptoms once again at this moment, and we are still assessing him at this time.”

Tomczyk confirmed that Newman, who exited Sunday’s game with discomfort in his lower right abdominal muscle, was available to play on Tuesday and in Wednesday’s series finale. He was not in the lineup against White Sox left-hander Dallas Keuchel, though.

“He’s made very nice strides. In our experience with Kevin, he’s a pretty quick healer from soft tissue-type injuries and he knows his body better than most,” Tomczyk said. “He knows how to push himself. If anything, we’re holding him back in some ways to make sure that he can go out there and be the player that Kevin needs to be and that Derek needs him to be.”

Pitchers on the mend

Tomczyk had some good news to share about a handful of the injured pitchers.

Starter Joe Musgrove (inflammation in right triceps) is scheduled to throw a two-inning simulated game in the coming days at the Pirates’ alternate training site in Altoona, Pa. The Pirates are still discussing whether it’s necessary to have Musgrove get built back up to pitch four or five innings before he returns from the 10-day injured list.

Starter Mitch Keller (strained left oblique) has thrown a few bullpen sessions, most recently on Tuesday. Tomczyk said Keller is “making some nice progress,” and the Pirates hope to have both Keller and Musgrove back on the mound before the season ends.

“We firmly believe that both men -- Joe and Mitch -- will be pitching again for us shortly,” Tomczyk said.

Reliever Kyle Crick (strained right shoulder/lat muscle) threw another batting practice session on Wednesday in Chicago. Tomczyk said Crick “continues to check all the boxes off” from a health perspective, so he may not be far from rejoining the active roster.

Reliever Yacksel Rios (inflammation in right shoulder) has resumed throwing, playing catch on three consecutive days while reporting no issues. Right-hander James Marvel (strained right forearm) has resumed throwing bullpen sessions.

Finally, starter Jameson Taillon is scheduled to face hitters for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery last August. Taillon will throw one inning of BP later this week at Peoples Natural Gas Field in Altoona, Tomczyk said, “a nice milestone” in his recovery.

Surgery for Evans, Kelley

Infielder Phillip Evans underwent surgery late last week to repair his broken jaw, Tomczyk said. Evans is recovering well but still has his jaw wired shut. The Pirates continue to expect a full recovery that will allow Evans to return at full health next spring.

Minor League catcher Christian Kelley, who was working out at the club’s alternate training site, recently had surgery on his right wrist to address what Tomczyk called “some damage in the cartilage, in the sponge of the wrist.” The operation was performed by Dr. Ed Birdsong of Allegheny Health Network. The Pirates anticipate that Kelley will return to full baseball activities in eight to 10 weeks.

Worth noting

• The Pirates on Wednesday acquired left-hander Austin Davis from the Phillies in exchange for cash or a player to be named. The 27-year-old Davis went 4-1 with a 2.75 ERA and 64 strikeouts over 37 relief appearances for Triple-A Lehigh Valley last season, but he has struggled in the Majors. He has a 5.86 ERA and 1.61 WHIP, albeit with 64 strikeouts in 58 1/3 innings, over 50 relief appearances for the Phillies since 2018.

Philadelphia designated Davis for assignment last Friday. His arsenal includes a four-seam fastball with an above-average spin rate as well as a changeup, curveball and slider.

• Right-hander Cody Ponce will make his first Major League start on Thursday during the Pirates’ seven-inning doubleheader against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. The club has not confirmed which half of the doubleheader Ponce will start, but it will likely be the second game. Pittsburgh can call up a “29th man” for the second game, and it figures to be Ponce since he is currently on the taxi squad.

“When we sent Ponce out, we sent him out to be built up, because he had been in the bullpen and we knew we were going to need this start,” Shelton said. “So we wanted somebody that had some length.”

• The Pirates do not yet know when right-hander Carson Fulmer, who was claimed off waivers on Monday, will join the team. He must first clear the league’s health-and-safety protocol, which includes testing for COVID-19.