Amid promotion after promotion for the game’s top hitting prospects, the Pirates on Sunday confirmed their ace in the hole -- they hope -- is set to make his MLB debut Monday.
Mitch Keller, the Pirates’ top prospect, will start for the team in the second game of their Memorial Day doubleheader against the Reds. The 23-year-old was a second-round selection of the Pirates in 2014.
“It’s crazy. It’s sooner than anyone expected, but I feel like I’m ready. I’m ready to go out and show what I can do,” Keller said. “I’m prepared to live in the moment and show what I can do.”
In nine starts at Triple-A Indianapolis this year, Keller has a 3.45 ERA, 1.43 WHIP and 56/20 K/BB ratio over 47 innings. Over his past seven, though, the right-hander is 5-0 with a 3.05 ERA and 47 strikeouts.
“In a perfect world, we would have given him more time,” Pirates general manager Neal Huntington told reporters Sunday at PNC Park. “We’re not in a perfect world. We feel like he’s ready to come up here and compete. He’ll have the opportunity to go out there and continue to grow.”
The Reds are a tough team to face in your MLB debut, but the fact that it’s part of a doubleheader offers some potential relief, depending on how Reds manager David Bell fills out his lineup card. Even if it wasn’t a situation where the Reds might be resting some of their regulars, Keller’s star is bright enough that he’d be worth rolling with in his debut.
It sounds, too, as though his leash will be as long as he dictates it is. He’s worth an add in all fantasy formats for however long he’s with the big club.
Bryant Down, Maybe Out For Cubs
Kris Bryant was allowed to fly with the Cubs to Houston.
Whether he’s allowed to play while down there is yet to be seen.
Bryant’s status is up in the air -- pun intended -- after he and fellow Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward collided in the sixth inning of Sunday’s game. Bryant ducked his head as he tried to avoid Heyward, instead making contact with Heyward’s chest and hurting his head and neck in the process.
"He's doing OK. He's still under evaluation," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said Sunday afternoon. "We don't know exactly what we're dealing with this whole thing yet. But we're trying to talk with the docs and him to find out exactly where we're at. So, I don't have anything new to report yet."
The injury, or potential injury, comes at a time when Bryant was just starting to find his stride at the plate. After a slow April, Bryant was hitting .357/.476/.762 with nine homers, 21 RBI and 24 runs scored in May heading into Sunday’s game. He’s hitting .283/.405/.567 overall.
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Woodruff 'Really Good' Against Phillies
Brandon Woodruff was nearly perfect on Sunday.
But don’t take my word for it.
He finished the day with one run allowed -- on Andrew Knapp’s solo homer in the sixth inning -- while striking out 10 over eight strong innings of work. The 10 strikeouts were a career high for the right-hander.
“I threw a no-hitter in high school, but never anything close to a perfect game,” Woodruff said. “I didn’t really think much about it. I was just out there trying to make pitches and get outs.”
He’s done a lot of that this year. In 14 appearances, including 11 starts, the 26-year-old is 7-1 with a 3.22 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 75/17 K/BB ratio over 64 1/3 innings. He hasn’t allowed more than two earned runs in any of his past six starts.
“He’s really good, man,” Harper continued. “He looks like a Matt Harvey when he came up. Exploding fastball, curveball, changeup. Pitching the top of the zone. I think he’s really good.”
National League Quick Hits: Luke Weaver was forced to leave Sunday's game against the Giants due to right forearm tightness. Uh oh. That's never a good sign, as forearm issues are often precursors to bigger problems. He'll presumably head for an MRI to determine the severity of the injury and to ensure there's no structural damage. Prior to departing, he had allowed one run on six hits and a pair of walks while striking out six. With as well as Weaver has pitched this year, this would be a major loss for the D'Backs and for fantasy owners if he's forced to miss any serious time. … Charlie Blackmon (calf) remained out of the Rockies' lineup Sunday. He has sat out three straight games after injuring his right calf on Thursday. Manager Bud Black admitted Sunday to not knowing whether Blackmon would be available off the bench or whether he might need an injured list stint, so it appears that his status for the upcoming week is up in the air. Raimel Tapia, Ian Desmond and David Dahl handled the outfield duties for the Rockies this weekend. … Chris Paddack was scratched from Sunday's start in Toronto due to a stiff neck. Paddack woke up with a stiff neck, so the Padres exercised caution and push his next start back to Wednesday versus the Yankees. Robbie Erlin made an ill-fated spot start on Sunday. … Nick Pivetta will be recalled by the Phillies to start Tuesday against the Cardinals. The Phils will keep Vince Velasquez in the bullpen and give another shot to Pivetta, who was sent down last month after posting an 8.35 ERA over his first four starts. The righty was wild at Triple-A Lehigh Valley with 20 walks over 37 innings, but he also struck out 50 and held a 3.41 ERA. Pivetta is worth a gamble again due to the strikeout upside, but obviously there's risk. … Justin Turner went a perfect 5-for-5 with a walk and three runs scored as the Dodgers outlasted the Pirates 11-7 on Sunday. Amazingly, none of Turner's five singles drove in a run on a day when the Dodgers scored 11 of them, but he did plenty of scoring himself as he reached base in all six plate appearances. The five-hit day got his average up over .300, and through Sunday he's hitting .304/.396/.444 in 48 games. He's still not hitting for a ton of power -- he's got just six homers in 48 games -- but he's doing everything else you can ask of a hitter. When the power comes, and it should at some point, even better. … Mets activated OF Michael Conforto from the 7-day concussion injured list. Conforto has been free of concussion symptoms for several days and has finally been officially cleared to return to action. He went hitless in three at-bats in his return. … Nolan Arenado went 2-for-5 with a two-run homer and a pair of runs scored in the Rockies’ comeback win over the Orioles on Sunday. Arenado clobbered a go-ahead, two-run homer -- his 15th round-tripper of the season -- off Orioles’ starter David Hess in the sixth inning. When that lead didn’t hold up, he jump-started the Rockies’ comeback by smacking a leadoff single and eventually scored the tying run in the ninth. The 28-year-old fantasy superstar is arguably the hottest hitter in baseball right now. He’s recorded six consecutive multi-hit efforts, while going deep four times in his last three games. He owns a truly sublime .335/.378/.641 triple-slash line with 40 runs scored, 44 RBI and one stolen base across 225 plate appearances. … Franmil Reyes was not in the Padres' lineup Sunday for the second day in a row because of left shoulder soreness. Reyes tweaked the shoulder on a check swing recently. He felt good enough to play Sunday, but the club has decided to give him another day to rest. It sounds like Reyes should have a good chance to return Monday.
American League Quick Hits: Aaron Judge (oblique) could resume swinging a bat this week during the Yankees' homestand. Judge has been slowly ramping up his baseball activities lately and is almost ready to take the next step. If he's able to swing a bat with no issues, he would figure to be game-ready not long after that. Judge has been sidelined for the last five weeks with a strained left oblique. … Andrew Heaney struck out eight batters over five innings in a no-decision against the Rangers in his season debut on Sunday. Heaney allowed only two hits, but both of them left the yard, courtesy of veteran sluggers Shin-Soo Choo and Hunter Pence in the fourth inning. He generated an impressive 15 swinging strikes and needed only 85 pitches to complete five frames. It was an extremely encouraging season debut for the 27-year-old southpaw, who missed the first two months of the season with elbow issues. He'll take on the struggling Mariners on the road in his next start on Friday and needs to be owned in all fantasy leagues moving forward. … Yankees manager Aaron Boone said Sunday that he hopes James Paxton (knee) will be able to rejoin the rotation this week for their series against the Padres. It's not clear which day Paxton would be slotted in, but they play the Padres Monday-Wednesday so it's possible it could be a two-start week. Paxton admitted to still feeling some pain in his left knee during an extended spring training game last Friday, but he got through a bullpen session, long-toss and pitchers' fielding practice Sunday with no issues. It sounds like the lefty will have to pitch with a bit of discomfort, at least initially, but fantasy owners certainly will be happy to have him back. ... Cavan Biggio hit his first MLB home run, finishing 3-for-4 with two RBI, in Sunday's win over the Padres. The 24-year-old isn't expected to be a star to the level of his father, but he should be a solid major league regular who is worth a look in deeper mixed leagues on the chance he further blossoms at the major league level. … Oscar Mercado (hip) was back in the Indians' lineup Sunday. Mercado sat out Friday and Saturday after exited Thursday's game with a bruised right hip following a collision. In Sunday’s loss to the Rays, he hit his first major league home run, finishing 2-for-4. … Justin Smoak hit two homers and had five RBI as the Blue Jays trounced the Padres 10-1 on Sunday. Smoak is strong as the day is long and showed it off in this one, smashing a two-run homer to the second deck in center field in the fifth inning before launching a three-run shot to right in the eighth. Smoak now has five homers in his last five games and is up to 11 overall, collecting 30 RBI and scoring 26 runs in the process. The 32-year-old is hitting a productive .224/.374/.461 in 52 games to date. … David Price (illness) is expected to start for the Red Sox on Tuesday or Wednesday versus the Indians. Price had to leave Saturday's outing against the Astros after recording just two outs because of the flu bug. The good news is he will at least be able to come back on short rest and will have a much easier matchup this time. … Orioles placed 1B Chris Davis on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to May 25, with left hip inflammation. It's unclear how long the hip has been bothering Davis, but he hasn't started a game since Thursday. The Orioles haven't revealed a timetable for him. Renato Nunez and Trey Mancini should handle the first base duties while Davis is on the shelf. … Austin Meadows went 4-for-4 with a home run, three RBI and two runs scored to lead the Rays to a 6-3 win over the Indians on Sunday. Meadows batted leadoff and certainly played catalyst all afternoon, including socking a leadoff homer against Indians starter Trevor Bauer. He singled and scored in a two-run third inning, was hit by a pitch and stole a base in the fifth, collected an RBI single in the seventh and capped it off with an RBI ground-rule double in the ninth. If there's anything the 24-year-old can't do, we're still waiting to see it -- through Sunday, he's now got 10 homers, five steals, 27 RBI and 19 runs scored while batting a healthy .341/.420/.659 across 34 games played … Tim Anderson (wrist) was a late scratch from the White Sox' lineup again Sunday. Anderson was hit by a pitch in the right wrist Friday and has now been scratched in the two games since then. He is still considered day-to-day.