PHILADELPHIA -- There are several pitchers on Pittsburgh’s staff who could get the nod for the team’s final game of the regular season. Mitch Keller is not on that list.
Prior to the Pirates’ 3-2 win over the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on Thursday night, manager Derek Shelton told reporters that Keller would not start in the regular season’s final game, officially ending the finest season of the 27-year-old’s career.
Shelton noted that Keller, who has thrown a career-high 194 1/3 innings, has not pitched on four days of rest in September. If Keller was to start against the Marlins on Sunday, it would be on four days of rest. The last time he pitched on that little rest was in the first half of a doubleheader against the Reds on Aug. 13. Since then, Keller has had five or six days of rest between every start.
Keller will fall a couple frames short of becoming the first Pirate since Gerrit Cole in 2017 to log at least 200 innings in a single season. Keller, with a career-high 210 strikeouts on his resumé, was also on the cusp of being the third pitcher in franchise history (since 1887) to record at least 200 innings and 200 strikeouts in a single season, a list that only includes Cole (2015) and Bob Veale (‘64, ‘65, ‘66, ‘69).
“It’s a cool thing to get to. It’s not the end of the world if I don’t, but to get 6 1/3, it would have to be a really good start anyway,” Keller said following his start on Tuesday. “It’d be really cool to get to 200, but I’m not sweating it out or anything like that. I’m just glad to make all 32 starts and be healthy, take what I’ve learned this season with the volume, the amount, and take it into next year.”
With Keller, Johan Oviedo and Luis L. Ortiz -- who pitched five innings of one-run ball against the Phillies on Thursday -- done for the season and left-hander Bailey Falter on the injured list, the Pirates have limited options as to who they start in their final three games. Quinn Priester, who recorded his first career quality start on Sept. 24, will likely get the ball for one of them. Andre Jackson, who pitched 1 1/3 innings of relief on Sept. 24, could take the mound for one as well.
The third spot is a bit ambiguous. Pittsburgh could, for one final time, roll with an opener followed by a bulk guy. Given the team’s current personnel, right-hander Colin Selby would likely be the opener and right-hander Osvaldo Bido would likely be the bulk guy.
On paper, this final series would present an opportunity for the Pirates to recall right-hander Roansy Contreras. A promotion, however, likely won’t be in the cards.
“I would say that, most likely, he is not a possibility for us to see at the end of the year,” Shelton said.
The past couple months have been a whirlwind for Contreras. In mid-July, Pittsburgh optioned him to the Rookie-level Florida Coast League Pirates to work on mechanics in a low-stress environment. Contreras made a single appearance for Single-A Bradenton on Aug. 4, then joined Triple-A Indianapolis shortly after. In eight games (six starts) for Indianapolis, Contreras had a 4.96 ERA and a 6.11 FIP across 32 2/3 innings.