Steven Brault was starting to gain traction in the Pirates rotation when he went on the injured list four weeks ago with a shoulder strain.
He hasn’t pitched since July 5, but he’s listed as the starter for the second game of the Milwaukee Brewers series Tuesday at PNC Park.
“It feels great,” Brault said of the shoulder.
Brault admitted his rehab assignment in Indianapolis on Thursday was “not great.” He walked five, threw a wild pitch and gave up three hits and two runs in four-plus innings.
“Stuff was good, and I felt really good,” he said. “Pitching to hitters for the first time, command wasn’t there. Getting a little jumpy, excited. Happens to everybody, right?”
Brault hopes to regain the form that allowed him to throw six shutout innings with six strikeouts against the Brewers on June 14. Overall, he has a 3-1 record and 4.15 ERA in nine starts this season.
Lyles back at PNC Park
Monday’s pitching matchup features Dario Agrazal against former Pirate Jordan Lyles for Milwaukee.
Lyles, who was traded last week, was the winning pitcher Wednesday in the Brewers’ 4-2 victory against the Oakland A’s. After compiling a 15.00 July ERA before that game, he allowed only three hits, two walks and one run in five innings.
Work to do
The Pirates’ stretch of 17 losses in 21 games was accompanied by a brawl in Cincinnati that resulted in suspensions for manager Clint Hurdle and three players. In addition, relief pitcher Keone Kela was suspended for his part in the brawl and an unrelated and unspecified violation of his contract. Bullpen coach Euclides Rojas also was suspended for violating his contract.
General manager Neal Huntington hopes his team learns from what happened and can “be better.”
“Those are three incidents that we’ll learn from and we need to make sure don’t happen again,” he said
“Winning could sometimes be a beautiful deodorant to some challenges that are there, and when you’re losing, it seems like everything becomes public.
“We like our group. We have work to do.”
What about Mitch?
Huntington said top pitching prospect Mitch Keller is “pounding on the door” to get another major league opportunity, but Huntington believes Brault and Agrazal are blocking Keller.
“For what Brault and Agrazal have done, it’s tough to move them out,” he said.
Agrazal is 2-2 with a 3.65 ERA in the first seven starts of his career.
The Kang experiment
Huntington said Jung Ho Kang’s two seasons away from major league pitching led to his problems at the plate and the Pirates eventually designating him for assignment.
But Huntington defended the decision to re-sign him this year.
“We saw the raw power. We still saw the hands,” he said. “We made the decision based upon the ceiling. Could we get that hitter back?
“He had a hard time catching velocity, a hard time catching spin. When he did, he hit it hard. He hit it far. He just didn’t do it frequently enough.”
Polanco still rehabbing
Huntington said Gregory Polanco’s range of motion is improving as he deals with shoulder pain tied to offseason surgery. But Huntington offered no timetable for his return.
“He’s returning to baseball activities. Build on each good day. And when we have a not-so-good day, how do we react to that?”