ATLANTA -- The Pirates’ rotation could be close to full strength sooner rather than later.
Trevor Williams (right side strain) will make a Minor League rehab start for Triple-A Indianapolis on Thursday. Jordan Lyles (left hamstring tightness) is scheduled to throw a bullpen session this weekend in Miami, and director of sports medicine Todd Tomczyk said the Pirates are optimistic that Lyles will spend only the minimum 10 days on the injured list.
If everything goes well Thursday, Williams will be in line to rejoin Pittsburgh’s rotation as soon as Tuesday. Lyles is eligible to come off the 10-day IL on June 20, which is an off-day before Pittsburgh’s series against the Padres at PNC Park.
With Williams and Lyles joining Chris Archer and Joe Musgrove, and either Steven Brault or Mitch Keller filling the final spot, the Bucs might be nearing the end of an uncertain stretch regarding the composition of their rotation.
The Pirates didn’t have a starter for Wednesday on their roster until a few hours before first pitch, when they recalled Keller and optioned reliever Montana DuRapau to Triple-A. They didn’t have a starter lined up for Thursday until Musgrove was ejected from Monday’s game after 18 pitches. They haven’t yet named a starter for Saturday’s game at Marlins Park.
On Wednesday, Keller became the seventh different pitcher to start a game for the Pirates in 11 games this month.
Williams was encouraged by how he felt during a four-inning simulated game last weekend in Milwaukee, and Tomczyk said the Bucs feel similarly optimistic about Lyles’ progress since he was placed on the injured list Monday. When they return, Jameson Taillon will be the only member of the Opening Day rotation still sidelined.
Taillon (right elbow flexor tendon strain) is working through functional exercises and gripping activities, Tomczyk said, but not throwing. The Pirates cannot yet provide a timetable for Taillon’s return or when he might begin a throwing program.
“To put a rough projection on it wouldn’t do it any justice right now for anybody,” Tomczyk said.
• Catcher Francisco Cervelli (concussion) will be reexamined by a neurologist Thursday. Tomczyk noted that Cervelli feels no concussion symptoms during normal, everyday activities, but he has not been cleared to work out.
• Setup man Keone Kela (right shoulder inflammation) could resume throwing Thursday or Friday, Tomczyk said. Kela, who has been on the injured list since May 6, is working out at the Pirate City complex in Bradenton, Fla.
• Right-hander Rookie Davis (right middle finger blister) hopes to throw a bullpen session Thursday. Davis, who felt his finger flare up before his third and final inning on Friday, is eligible to return Tuesday.
• Reliever Nick Burdi, out since April 23 due to a nerve injury in his biceps, is throwing but still not symptom-free, Tomczyk said.
• Right-hander Chris Stratton (right side discomfort) gave up one run on two hits while striking out two in a two-inning rehab outing for Triple-A Indianapolis on Tuesday. Tomczyk said the Pirates hope to have Stratton make another rehab appearance in the coming days.
• Shortstop Erik Gonzalez (left clavicle fracture) is hitting soft tosses in the batting cage, fielding grounders and running the bases with no issues.
• Outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall (left calf strain) remains at home. Tomczyk said the Pirates are still in contact with Chisenhall, who has not played in the Majors since July 1, and hoping to help him get healthy.
• Triple-A third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes, the Bucs’ No. 2 prospect per MLB Pipeline, will be placed on the seven-day injured list due to a left index finger injury. Tomczyk said the Pirates were still gathering information regarding Hayes’ injury, which forced him to leave Tuesday’s game.
• Triple-A right-hander J.T. Brubaker, Pittsburgh’s No. 18 prospect, threw a two-inning, 35-pitch simulated game Wednesday. Brubaker has been out since April 24 due to a forearm strain but could soon return to game action.
Around the horn
• Veteran outfielder JB Shuck made his first appearance as a pitcher in Triple-A on Wednesday. Shuck had been throwing bullpens since the Pirates decided to make him a two-way player. He started in right field Wednesday, then allowed two hits and a walk with one strikeout in the ninth inning.
• Corey Dickerson, Starling Marte and Melky Cabrera started in the outfield on Wednesday night. It was Cabrera’s first start since the Bucs began their five-man outfield rotation on Saturday, when Dickerson returned from the injured list.
“We’ve got to find a way to be selfless, to try to get the maximum out of them while we’ve got the five of them here and healthy,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “I don’t mean while we’ve got the five here because somebody’s getting moved. I’m just saying while they’re all active and healthy, because this has been the first time all year where we’ve had this situation.”
According to a report from MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal, the Pirates are receiving trade interest in Cabrera, but they’d prefer to deal Dickerson, who is a pending free agent like Cabrera.
On Wednesday, the Pirates signed eight more of their selections from last week’s MLB Draft. Right-hander Grant Ford (fifth round), catcher Kyle Wilkie (12th round), right-hander Garrett Leonard (15th round) and infielder Cory Wood (19th round) were assigned to Class A short-season West Virginia. Outfielder Chase Murray (13th round), infielder Aaron Shackelford (14th round), catcher Eli Wilson (16th round) and left-hander Trey McGough (24th round) will begin their professional careers with Rookie-level Bristol.
The Pirates have signed 15 of their Draft picks.