PITTSBURGH -- Chris Archer's injury and an overworked bullpen led to a pair of roster moves for the Pirates on Wednesday afternoon.
A day after he departed the Pirates’ 4-1 win over the Nationals after just one inning, Archer was placed on the 10-day injured list with right shoulder inflammation. The Bucs also put right-hander Clay Holmes on the 10-day IL due to left quadriceps discomfort.
Archer completed the first inning of his start on Tuesday at PNC Park by striking out Juan Soto and Asdrubal Cabrera with two men on base, but he paused after airmailing his fifth warmup pitch before the second inning. Archer and catcher Jacob Stallings called for head athletic trainer Bryan Housand, then Archer walked off the mound with Housand after a brief conversation.
Archer will be shut down from throwing for a week to 10 days before he is reassessed, Pirates director of sports medicine Todd Tomczyk said. The 30-year-old right-hander was reexamined by team doctors on Wednesday morning, and they cleared him to continue his conditioning, weight training and arm-care work. Tomczyk said Archer’s inflammation is “general; it’s not in one specific location,” and that Archer had not felt that pain “to that level” before warming up for the second inning.
“There’s inflammation within the shoulder, and our doctors -- at this initial stage of this -- are optimistic that this is going to be short term,” Tomczyk said.
Archer, the Pirates’ marquee addition at the 2018 Trade Deadline, has had his worst statistical season in the Majors to this point. His 5.19 ERA is a career high, as is his 1.41 WHIP. His walk rate has climbed from 7.7% last year to 10.5% this season.
Archer had been starting to pitch better after ditching his two-seam fastball in late June. Four of his last seven outings were quality starts, and his strikeout rate has actually improved from 25.4% last season to 27.2% in 2019.
Archer would have been in line to start Sunday’s series finale against the Reds at PNC Park. The Pirates have not yet announced a probable starter for that game, but manager Clint Hurdle indicated that Agrazal will take that spot after throwing two clean innings out of the bullpen on Wednesday. Agrazal put up a 4.29 ERA over eight starts for Pittsburgh before he was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis. The righty gave up eight runs on 14 hits in nine innings over his last two starts for Indianapolis, though he did record 12 strikeouts with only one walk.
Holmes bore the brunt of two of the Pirates’ short starts in the last three games, as he combined to throw 105 pitches over 5 2/3 innings during long-relief appearances on Sunday and Tuesday. Holmes was arguably as effective as he’s been all season in those outings, allowing only one run on two hits despite walking seven of the 25 batters he faced. Tomczyk said Holmes felt some soreness in his quad after his 64th and final pitch on Tuesday.
“I feel bad about the volume. That’s a lot,” Hurdle said. “I can’t remember the last time I had somebody go out and throw 100 pitches in two outings. He pitched well through it.”
This is Markel’s second stint with the Pirates. He worked three innings over two relief appearances for the Bucs earlier this month before returning to Indianapolis, where he struck out eight over three scoreless innings. Markel allowed three runs on three hits and three walks while recording only two outs on Wednesday.
• Catcher Francisco Cervelli, taking part in a rehab assignment on his way back from a concussion, started both games of Indianapolis’ doubleheader on Wednesday. Cervelli started the first game behind the plate before serving as the designated hitter for Game 2. Tomczyk said Cervelli has reported “no issues” during his rehab assignment.
• Right fielder Gregory Polanco (left shoulder inflammation) is getting closer to starting a rehab assignment. He is hitting in simulated games, throwing to bases and participating in all baseball activities. Polanco's goal is to get in upper-level Minor League games by the end of August, Tomczyk said, so he can return to the Pirates in September.
• Right-hander Chad Kuhl, out for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery last September, threw a bullpen session off the PNC Park bullpen mound, Tomczyk said. Kuhl and reliever Edgar Santana are continuing to make progress in their respective recoveries from Tommy John surgery.
• Shortstop Cole Tucker, who was optioned back to Triple-A after Sunday’s game in Williamsport, is also recovering from a left foot contusion he sustained when he was hit by a pitch in the ninth inning of that contest.