The Pirates received disappointing news about two of their pitchers, both of whom will be sidelined for an extensive amount of time.
“I did speak with Blake late last night. He was back in the hotel, upbeat, encouraged, ready for his rehab process,” Pirates director of sports medicine Todd Tomczyk said. “There's been a large cohort of professional baseball pitchers that have gone through this process, and there are many successes. So I know Blake's excited about this journey to get back, and we are going to help him in every facet of this rehab to ensure that he gets back to the way Blake's pitched prior.”
Brault was preparing for his sixth season with the Pirates after a solid 2020 that produced a 3.38 ERA over 11 games (10 starts). Tomczyk projected it will be around 10 weeks before the lefty can return to full competition.
“I don't want to put words in his mouth, but from my lens, from my perspective, when the doctors and the medical staff revealed this to him, there's disappointment, frustration, but at the end of it, there's opportunity,” Tomczyk said. “Fortunately, Steven has been through a long rehab like this prior, and he's come back even stronger. And I know that's where his mindset is right now.”
Now comes the tall task of replacing Brault in the rotation. Will Crowe figures to be in the mix, though he can probably be used as a bulk reliever if there is a need. Cody Ponce and Miguel Yajure, who was cut from big league camp on Wednesday, could factor in at some point as well.
General manager Ben Cherington has alluded in the past to the possibility of using a six-man rotation.
“We like the idea of having six starters on the team,” Cherington said. “Whether we're actually using all six as starters or are using them to come in behind guys and provide length or back and forth, we’ll see how that plays out. We just wanted to add as much starting depth as we could after the offseason moves.”
In that scenario, the rotation would likely consist of Mitch Keller at the top, followed by Chad Kuhl, Tyler Anderson, Trevor Cahill, JT Brubaker and Crowe.
“I think what we're looking for out of all of our guys is just to go out and give us consistent innings,” manager Derek Shelton said. “The one thing we do know is, in this season we're going to need to cover about 1,500 innings, it's going to come from a lot of people. Whether we break [camp] with 13 or 14 [pitchers], it's going to take a lot more guys, so we're going to rely on the entire group to be able to cover those and no added pressure to anybody. Just basically stay with what you're doing and cover your innings.”
In other injury news, reliever Tyler Bashlor (lower back tightness) threw live batting practice and responded well to the workload, according to Tomczyk. Third baseman Todd Frazier, also dealing with lower back stiffness, took some swings in the batting cage and is making progress.