The Pirates made their first batch of roster cuts Saturday morning, optioning RHPs Mitch Keller, Luis Escobar and J.T. Brubaker to AAA Indianapolis.
Dario Agrazal, Jason Delay, Elvis Escobar, Eduardo Vera and Blake Weiman were also reassigned to minor league camp. There are now 54 players in the major league camp.
Keller was not a serious candidate for a major league roster spot out of spring because it would potentially cost the Pirates a year of team control, so being demoted was a matter of “when,” not “if.” In AAA, the Pirates can still control his workload while saving reps for guys who could still potentially make the team. They employed a similar strategy in 2016 when they optioned Jameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow to AAA in mid-March rather than have them finish camp with the major leaguers.
So while his demotion wasn’t just because of his performance, Keller struggled mightily this spring, allowing 10 hits and 10 runs in four innings pitched with only one strikeout. He surrendered three home runs.
Brubaker and Luis Escobar fared better in Florida. Brubaker- the Pirates reigning minor league pitcher of the year- struck out five without walking a batter in his three games pitched, allowing one run in six innings pitched. Luis Escobar walked three with one punch out in his 3.2 innings of work.
Agrazal was on the 40 man for most of 2018, but was outrighted off the roster in January. The 24 year old recorded a 3.99 ERA over 85.2 IP in AA Altoona last year. Delay had a .627 OPS as Bradenton’s primary catcher in 2018. Elvis Escobar allowed four runs in 2 IP this spring. Vera pitched 97 innings for the Curve last year, finishing with a 3.62 ERA. Weiman rose from the West Virginia Power to Altoona in 2018, posting a 2.42 ERA over 67 IP along the way.