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Bucs recall Keller for second MLB start

Top prospect coming off impressive Triple-A outing; McRae, DuRapau optioned, Neverauskas recalled
@adamdberry
June 12, 2019

ATLANTA – Right-hander Mitch Keller, the Pirates’ top prospect, is back in the big leagues. After setting a career-high with 13 strikeouts in his last start for Triple-A Indianapolis, Keller was recalled for his second Major League start against the Braves on Wednesday night at SunTrust Park. Righty Montana DuRapau

ATLANTA – Right-hander Mitch Keller, the Pirates’ top prospect, is back in the big leagues.

After setting a career-high with 13 strikeouts in his last start for Triple-A Indianapolis, Keller was recalled for his second Major League start against the Braves on Wednesday night at SunTrust Park. Righty Montana DuRapau was optioned to Indianapolis in a corresponding move.

Keller, 23, gave up six runs in the first inning of his MLB debut on May 27 in Cincinnati, then settled down to pitch three scoreless innings in the second game of a doubleheader. He’s hoping to build on those final three innings and looking forward to a start under what he acknowledged will be “more normal” conditions.

“If I just execute my pitches and everything’s on, I belong. I know I can do it. Just going from there,” Keller said Tuesday afternoon. “Trying to limit the damage there in the first, not looking back on it. Continue to look to the future and see what I can do better to get through those innings.

“I’m sure I’ll still have the same nerves and the same anxiousness as the last time. Just the routine thing, it will be huge to have that be normal.”

General manager Neal Huntington acknowledged on Sunday that Keller was an option to start Wednesday’s game. Keller has the highest-ceiling arm in the upper levels of Pittsburgh’s farm system.

The Pirates needed someone to step into their injury-plagued rotation. The spot Keller stepped into on Wednesday previously belonged to Rookie Davis, who was injured (right middle finger blister) while starting in place of Nick Kingham, who was designated for assignment on Saturday and was only starting because Jameson Taillon and Trevor Williams are injured.

The Pirates have not named a starter for Saturday’s game at Marlins Park. That would have been Joe Musgrove’s turn, but the Bucs elected to start Musgrove on Thursday at SunTrust Park after his abbreviated outing on Monday.

Roster moves

The Pirates optioned right-hander Alex McRae to Triple-A Indianapolis after he threw 95 pitches over 4 1/3 innings in relief of Musgrove on Monday night. The Bucs recalled reliever Dovydas Neverauskas from Indianapolis to add a fresh arm to the bullpen.

McRae felt the brunt of the collateral damage resulting from Musgrove’s first-inning ejection. He had to handle the most work afterward, which left him unavailable to pitch for a few days, and cost him his spot on the roster. It was the second time the Bucs asked McRae to give them everything he had, as he previously threw 153 pitches in eight innings over three relief appearances within the span of a week.

“He was asked to do big-time work two times, and he was able to do the work, which bought him a lot of street cred in the clubhouse, with the coaching staff and with myself,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.

Neverauskas still hasn’t found a way to translate his Triple-A dominance to the next level. The 26-year-old right-hander owns a 2.29 ERA and 0.97 WHIP for Indianapolis this season, but he’s given up seven runs while recording only 10 outs in five outings for the Pirates.

The Pirates sent right-hander Chris Stratton (right side discomfort) on a rehab assignment in Triple-A on Tuesday night. Williams will make a rehab start for Indianapolis on Thursday, which lines him up to rejoin the Pirates’ rotation as soon as June 18 at PNC Park.

More on Musgrove

Braves third baseman Josh Donaldson was suspended for one game due to his role in Monday’s benches-clearing incident, but Musgrove received no such punishment. Still, Pirates management spent plenty of time on Tuesday speaking with Joe Torre, MLB’s chief baseball officer, to discuss umpire Brian Gorman’s decision to eject Musgrove.

Hurdle said he had a “lengthy conversation” with Torre, but didn’t reveal any details.

“The challenge will always be the consistency of the decision-making process; that’s the hard part. You’ve got different people making the game-time decisions, real-time decisions,” Hurdle said. “I stand by my comments that it’s hard to swallow when a guy that drops his hat and glove is called an aggressor when the other guy shoves the catcher out of the way and he’s making a move toward him. I still don’t comprehend that.”

Draft signings

After introducing first-round pick Quinn Priester on Tuesday morning, the Pirates signed six more Draft picks who were selected out of college in the first 10 rounds and assigned them all to Class A Short-Season West Virginia to begin their professional careers.

Pittsburgh signed outfielder Matt Gorski (second round), infielder Jared Triolo (Competitive Balance Round B), outfielder Matt Fraizer (third), outfielder Blake Sabol (seventh) and right-handers Austin Roberts (eighth) and Cameron Junker (10th).

According to MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis, Gorski signed for $1 million, which is below the 57th pick’s assigned slot value of $1,243,600. Triolo signed for $870,700, the exact slot value of pick No. 72. Fraizer received a $525,000 bonus, below the assigned slot value of $610,800.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.