Marvel set to make Major League debut Sunday

'He's earned it,' Hurdle says of 25-year-old right-hander

September 7th, 2019

PITTSBURGH -- So far, the Pirates have received nothing but good news regarding top prospect Mitch Keller’s bruised right wrist. Keller was able to throw a bullpen session on Saturday afternoon, only four days after his pitching hand was struck by a line drive, and he’s in line to start on Tuesday in San Francisco.

Pushing back Keller’s turn in the rotation also allowed the Pirates to deliver good news to James Marvel.

Marvel, a right-hander coming off a strong season in the Minors, will be added to the Pirates’ roster on Sunday and make his Major League debut against the Cardinals at PNC Park.

“He’s earned it,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “If you go talk to the people that have touched him and seen him perform this year, they would all echo the same sentiments: He’s focused, he’s prepared, he’s ready, he’s looking forward to adding value, and he’s looking for an opportunity to show the organization that we made a move that was worthy. It’s fun. Those are special moments that I never take for granted.”

Hurdle talked to Marvel, 25, in the outfield during batting practice on Friday afternoon. He offered nothing but encouragement to Marvel, who reported to Pittsburgh on Thursday only hours after thinking that his season was over.

It might have been enough for Marvel to jump from Double-A Altoona to Triple-A Indianapolis this season. On Sunday, Marvel -- a 36th-round Draft pick in 2015 -- will officially become a big leaguer.

“I told him there’s no bad ending to this. There really isn’t,” Hurdle said. “The game goes well, it’s great. If it doesn’t go well, it’s an experience, it’s an opportunity that was earned that you’re going to benefit from as you move forward in your career.”

Speaking in front of his locker on Thursday, Marvel seemed ready for the next step. Not long after he was drafted, he said, he made a decision to focus only on the things within his control. It was a lesson he learned during his turbulent college career at Duke University.

A leg injury cost Marvel about six weeks during his freshman season in 2013. He pitched the first four weeks of his sophomore season, then discovered he needed Tommy John surgery to repair his right elbow. The recovery process kept Marvel off the mound for his entire junior season, too.

The Pirates took a chance on Marvel in the same year that they selected Kevin Newman 19th overall. He’s not one of Pittsburgh’s top 30 prospects, according to MLB Pipeline, but he put up good numbers during his ascent through the Minor League system.

This year, Marvel posted a 3.10 ERA and 1.07 WHIP in 17 starts for Altoona. After being promoted to Triple-A, he finished the season -- or so he thought -- with a 7-0 record, 2.67 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in 11 starts.

“My journey has been unique. It’s been special to me,” Marvel said. “I think growing up, I always had this idea of what I thought my career was going to be. It didn’t turn out like that. I wouldn’t trade anything that I’ve been through, particularly the injuries when I was younger, because I really do believe those things changed my career, made me a stronger player but a stronger person in the things that I had to go through physically and mentally.

“I know for certain I wouldn’t be where I am today without having gone through it.”

Around the horn
• The Pirates don’t have a next step set in stone for right-hander Joe Musgrove, who was scratched from his scheduled start on Friday due to right foot discomfort.

• Alex McRae started in Musgrove’s place on Friday and put together his best outing in the Majors, allowing two runs on three hits over five innings in the Pirates' 9-4 win over St. Louis. The right-hander credited Pittsburgh’s other starting pitchers for his success. Before the game, McRae said, the other pitchers helped walk him through the lineup while offering tips about how they’d previously attacked the Cardinals.

“It just adds to your confidence when you go out there and you know you have a plan and you’re ready to make the pitches that you need to make,” McRae said. “I think I just had a lot more help from the other guys.”

• Left-hander Steven Brault will sing the national anthem before the Pirates’ series finale against the Cardinals on Sunday. He did so last June before a game at PNC Park and said at the time he hoped he’d be asked to do it again -- "and not just be like, 'Hey, never ever do that ever again,’” Brault said.