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Cannonballs Coming: Good start for Mitch Keller and some injury updates

MLB: Spring Training-Toronto Blue Jays at Pittsburgh Pirates Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Just one game in the farm system on Easter, but I’ll go through the injury updates given by the Pirates, in case anybody missed them:

  • Kevin Newman is expected to start rehab this week. Neal Huntington said Newman will play different positions to reduce the amount of throwing he has to do — I assume that means lots of outfield — in order to protect his cut finger. They want him to get at-bats. The Pirates are probably very eager to get Newman back because they don’t have a real shortstop behind Cole Tucker. I’ve seen Pablo Reyes play short and I really don’t want to see him there for more than an inning or two here and there. With Nick Franklin rehabbing at Bradenton, the shortstop at Indianapolis is now Jake Elmore, who’s really a second baseman. And, no, Jung Ho Kang is not playing short for the Pirates this year, except in emergency situations. He’s just not.
  • Gregory Polanco “could rejoin the Pirates this week.” Polanco didn’t play today and Indianapolis is off Monday, so I’m guessing “this week” means Monday. It’s hard to see what more time in AAA will accomplish. The Pirates have said Polanco’s throwing will not be back at full strength this year. And the Pirates desperately need offense from their outfield. They’ve gotten a surprising contribution from Melky Cabrera, Jason Martin and J.B. Shuck, but regression seems to be settling in. They need the big boys back.
  • Corey Dickerson is throwing but not ready for a rehab assignment yet.

And on to the one game in the system:

— Mitch Keller had easily his best start of the season as Indianapolis (10-6) dropped Louisville in 11 innings, 2-1. The Indians won on a walkoff single by Eric Wood after they loaded the bases with nobody out. Keller threw six shutout innings, allowing just two hits and striking out eight. He walked three and threw 51 of 92 pitches for strikes, which isn’t so great, but overall it was a step forward. For context, Louisville is 10th in the 14-team league in OPS. Three Indy relievers — Brandon Waddell, Clay Holmes and Tyler Lyons — combined for five hitless innings, allowing just an unearned run resulting from the fake runner in the 10th. Waddell fanned four over his two and a third innings.

The Indians couldn’t do much with Keury Mella, the Reds’ #15 prospect. Of course, Indy suddenly has a totally different team, with Bryan Reynolds, Cole Tucker and Elias Diaz in Pittsburgh, and Polanco not playing today. Will Craig and Ke’Bryan Hayes are both slumping right now. Hayes is 5-for-26 in his last six games and Craig is 0-for-16 with eight strikeouts in his last four. Today, Hayes went 0-3 with two walks and Craig 0-3 with a hit batsman. I’ve seen a good number of their at-bats and they both are struggling a bit with AAA breaking balls. Craig had one at-bat today, resulting in a three-pitch strikeout that was a bit typical: he took a curve for a strike, then took a fastball for a strike, then chased a breaking ball in the dirt. It probably says something, though, that they’ve gotten some good results so far anyway.

Trayvon Robinson went 2-4 with a triple that tied the game in the bottom of the tenth. Lonnie Chisenhall played seven innings in right and went 1-3.