Notes: Yajure optioned, Keller recalled

May 16th, 2021

PITTSBURGH -- One night removed from a near lights-out start for the Pirates, right-hander Miguel Yajure was optioned to Triple-A to make room on the active roster for right-handed reliever Kyle Keller.

Yajure, the Pirates’ No. 12 prospect per MLB Pipeline, pitched five shutout innings against the Giants on Friday night, striking out four batters while allowing just a hit and a walk. The short leash -- Yajure was pulled at 57 pitches -- was planned due to workload considerations.

Manager Derek Shelton said before Yajure’s start that success that night would factor into long-term considerations, but he didn’t foresee the club moving to a six-man rotation or any other altered short-term plan if Yajure dealt.

“He went through that lineup and executed pitches,” Shelton said. “Outstanding outing for him. We went into the game thinking five [innings], tops."

Keller was acquired by the Pirates for cash on April 5. The 28-year-old has recorded a 4.15 ERA in 13 innings across 2019-20 with the Marlins and Angels, respectively. In two innings at Triple-A Indianapolis, Keller struck out five batters and walked two without allowing a run or a hit.

In Saturday's 8-6 walk-off win against the Giants at PNC Park, Keller entered the game in relief in the sixth inning and recorded two strikeouts and gave up one hit, a two-run home run to Mike Tauchman, in 1 1/3 innings of work.

Keller throws a four-seam fastball that sits around 94-95 mph and a curveball that has produced a 2-for-14 average against. He also threw three forkballs last season -- one of the rarest pitches in baseball -- which is similar to a splitter but with a more severe downward break and pronounced grip.

“I know we like the fastball/curveball combo [and] his strikeout rates in the Minor Leagues,” Shelton said earlier this season. “And I think it gives us more depth this year and then moving forward.”

Infielder/outfielder Hunter Owen also cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A. Owen made his Major League debut on May 5 in San Diego, starting in right field and reaching base on a hit by pitch. The super utility man got four at-bats across three games with the Pirates and is still seeking his first MLB hit.

Film on Frazier

Adam Frazier jumped back into first place in the National League in hits on Friday, notching four to move up to 47 on the season. However, it was a subtle play on defense that Shelton said will be used as training material for infielders.

With one out and a runner on first base in the second inning, Brandon Crawford chopped a grounder directly toward Frazier. The second baseman dropped his back foot and planted it pointed toward second base, while keeping the front half of his lower body open to receive a ball with a good bit of top spin.

“He put himself in a really good position,” Shelton said. “It’s a video that will go to our Minor Leaguers, because that’s exactly what you’re supposed to do, exactly how you’re supposed to do it. It’s something he practiced, and that really stands out.”

Though Frazier has posted -1 outs above average so far this season, he’s still shown flashes of the defensive attributes that have made him a National League Gold Glove Finalist at second base in past years. He’s done the little things like turning the double play on Friday night, but he’s also made unbelievable plays like his Derek Jeter-esque assist on May 2.

Pirates pitch in

The Pirates partnered with the Miracle League of Moon Township on Saturday for Opening Day at People’s Park Miracle League Field, kicking off its inaugural season.

The new field was constructed with accessibility in mind, including a 9,500 square foot adaptive playground and fully ADA-accessible restrooms. Shelton said more than 50 people were able to come out for Opening Day at the new field, which is located in Moon Park.

“If you’ve ever been to a Miracle League event, it’s a special thing,” Shelton said. “And the Pirates are very proud to have teamed up with the one in Moon Township.”