AFL Recap: Mitch Keller Throws Three Shutout Innings in Debut

After the Glendale Desert Dogs lost their season opener to Peoria by a 3-0 score on the road yesterday, the two teams faced off in Glendale on Wednesday afternoon. Mitch Keller got the starting assignment, while Taylor Hearn, Logan Hill and Mitchell Tolman made their AFL debuts. Glendale would end up winning 5-4 for their first victory of the season.

Keller started his day off with a swinging strikeout on a 96 MPH fastball according to the stadium gun (ignore the slider part in that link). The next three batters all hit ground balls, although one ended up as a two-out infield single. Keller needed 12 pitches in the first inning, with eight going for strikes.

The second inning for Keller also started off with a swinging strikeout. On a 2-0 count to the next batter, Keller allowed a ground rule double. That was followed by a five-pitch walk. The next batter flew out to right field, which advanced the runner from second base. Keller battled the next batter before getting a strikeout looking. He threw 21 pitches in the inning, with ten going for strikes.

Keller gave up a hard single to left field on the first pitch of the third inning. Four pitches later, that runner was wiped out on a double play. Keller picked up his fourth strikeout of the game to end the inning and his day. He allowed three hits and a walk over three shutout innings, while throwing 25 of his 42 pitches for strikes.

Taylor Hearn came out for the seventh inning and struck out the first batter he faced on three pitches. The next batter grounded out to shortstop. Hearn battled the next batter, getting him to ground out to second base on the eighth pitch. He threw 15 pitches in the inning, ten for strikes, in his only inning of work.

Mitchell Tolman batted second and played second base. If you missed our AFL preview on Monday morning, Tolman replaced Cole Tucker on the AFL roster after Tucker broke his hand during Altoona’s playoff run last month. In the bottom of the first inning, Tolman lined out to left field. In the third inning, he walked on five pitches.

Tolman batted again in the fifth with one out and a man on first base. This time he walked on four pitches. Two innings later, he worked a full count walk, then scored three batters later on a double. Tolman came up in the eighth and grounded out to second base. He finished 0-for-2 with three walks and a run scored.

Logan Hill hasn’t played a game since his hand was broken by a pitch on July 26th. He was in right field on this day and batted third. Hill singled on a ground ball into left field in the first inning, then flew out to left field two innings later. In the fifth inning, he batted with two runners on and one out. Hill struck out on three pitches. He flew out to center field in the seventh inning. He finished 1-for-4 with a single.

** Kevin Kramer and JT Brubaker are the only Pirates not to see action yet. Glendale takes on Surprise tomorrow afternoon at home.

  • Lets lower the expectation level for Keller. Glowing minor league reports are meaningless. Need to see what he can do in the majors before anointing him the next great thing. Come to think of it, I can not remember the Pirates ever having a true number one starter on the team in the last 40 or so years. Forget Cole. The only reason he is a number one starter is because the Pirates say he is. He is a bad two with little control and no command of his pitches. Off all the Pirate pitchers over the last 40 years who would truly qualify as a number one starter?

    • Drabek pitched like a 1 for a few years

    • If you’re going season-to-season, Cole was a legit #1 starter two years ago (and Liriano was a borderline one), but I’m not sure what your criteria on timeframe is. I agree with Kerry – I’d say Drabek also.

    • I guess you never saw the Pirates play in the ’70’s through the ’80’s and ear;y ’90’s ?

      • Sure did but don’t recall any true number one starters. Maybe candy man or Vernon law. But don’t think they meet the standard. I thought possibly Drabek. He was very good but he had good hitting teams that could help him out.

    • I”m cheating going a little past 40 yrs, but Bob Veale most or all years from 1964-69. My very first game June 1, 1965, he struck out 16, and game was delayed twice by rain.

  • Really glad to hear Taylor Hearn getting 3 outs with no baserunners and not having a ball leave the infield considering he ended his season early due to injury. If he can get on the fast track and push for a September callup as a weapon out on the bullpen in 2019 then come into 2020 with a spot to lose in the rotation, he and Keller could form a killer 1-2 righty, lefty combo by 2020. (I know theres a lot of if’s, but’s, unforeseen circumstances but I’m an eternal optimist).

  • Is Keller projected to start the year at AA or AAA?