Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Mack: Why Is Dario Agrazal Starting Tonight?

Pirates' Confidence In Keller Must Be Cratering

Chris Mack
June 26, 2019 - 8:50 am

At the commencement of a 26-game stretch that will decide their season -all 26 games are against teams with winning records, and 20 of those are against NL Central opponents- the Pittsburgh Pirates have decided to rearrange their starting rotation in order to fit in a start for a young AAA pitcher who they simply haven't seen enough of yet.

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Here's the problem: That guy isn't Mitch Keller. 

It's Dario freaking Agrazal. "Dario Speedwagon," as my co-host calls him.

Well, count me as someone who Can't Fight This Feeling anymore that the Pirates have forgotten what they started fighting for... namely, that Keller would be a core piece of their starting rotation moving forward.

This isn't to suggest that Keller has acquitted himself supremely well in his first three Major League starts. That 10.50 ERA over just 12 innings is ugly. 

Related: Mitch Keller Was...Better

But so is a franchise showing so little confidence in the their #1 prospect learning on the job and getting the reps with the big club that would help him work out the issues -namely, throwing his breaking stuff for strikes- that have been identified by the coaching staff as holding him back. Keller's done that at AAA Indianapolis, putting up a 24-5 K-BB ratio in 18.1 IP over his three June starts. He has nothing left to prove there. 

So why keep him there when you could keep most of your rotation on regular rest, and plug him in against what would be a stiff test of a renewed approach?

To be clear, General Manager Neal Huntington, Manager Clint Hurdle, and Pitching Coach Ray Searage all had to agree that it was a good idea to push Joe Musgrove, Chris Archer, and Steven Brault back at least one day in order to make room for an Agrazal start. They could have left the aforementioned trio on four days’ rest, to pitch today and tomorrow against the Astros and Friday against the Brewers, respectively. Then they could have plugged in the returning Jordan Lyles and Keller over the weekend in Milwaukee.

Instead, they went out of their way to choose Agrazal -who's gone more than five innings in just one of his four starts this month between Indy & Pittsburgh- over Keller.

Are they trying to protect him from the big, bad Brewers? Are they worried that a kid who bounced back to strike out 8 of the final 9 batters he faced the night of one of the worst 1st innings in the history of Major League debuts is not mentally tough enough?

Do they legitimately think that, as a team just 4 GB out of a Wild Card spot and in the midst of the most grueling month of their schedule, Agrazal gives them a better chance to win right now than Keller?

Moreover, is this an organization that can afford to be so short sighted as to not consider the necessary growth of a long heralded 1st Round draft pick? The Pirates need to know what they have in Keller, Keller needs to experience the ups and downs of pitching at the Major League level, and the Pirates need to begin preparing for 2020 as much as they're attempting to stay in the 2019 race. 

They don’t need to go out of their way to start Agrazal.