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First Pitch: The Pirates Rotation Depth is Being Tested

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Bailey Falter was removed from his start on Saturday night with left posterior arm discomfort. Falter pitched two shutout innings, before being removed from the game.

The injury is the latest blow to the Pittsburgh Pirates rotation depth, which also saw Jared Jones go on the injured list in the last week. Jones and Falter were two big reasons why the Pirates rotation ranks 11th in fWAR this year, while ranking fifth in ERA (3.60) among all MLB rotations.

Fortunately, the Pirates have depth.

Luis Ortiz will make the start on Sunday, and with the way he’s been pitching, he could remain a fixture in the rotation. Ortiz has a 3.27 ERA in 55 innings this year. He’s been used as a spot starter and an extended reliever in bullpen games since June 1st. During that time, he has a 3.33 ERA in 24.1 innings, with a 23:2 K/BB ratio.

Ortiz could join Mitch Keller, Paul Skenes, and the recently returned Martin Perez, who allowed one unearned run in 7.1 innings this week, in his second start back in the big leagues. The Pirates would still need one starter.

Marco Gonzales pitched into the fifth inning on Saturday night, making his second rehab appearance for Indianapolis. Gonzales might need at least one more rehab appearance, and likely won’t be ready to return until after the All-Star Break.

Braxton Ashcraft returned from the injured list, and pitched three shutout innings in relief of Gonzales. The Pirates could turn to Ashcraft for a spot start, while limiting his innings with the use of a bullpen game behind him.

Keller will start Monday’s game against the Mets. After that, there are no scheduled starters for the remaining six games before the All-Star break.

Keller will likely start Saturday’s game, and Perez is likely to start the games on Tuesday and Sunday next week. Paul Skenes would be ready to start by Wednesday, with Ortiz being available again by Friday.

Because of the injuries to the rotation, the Pirates will likely need a spot starter on Thursday. They could turn to Ashcraft, five days after his three inning return. This would likely require a bullpen game, as I doubt they’d want to rely on Ashcraft for a full-start, following his return. Or, they could activate Gonzales early and hope for the best results across five innings.

Roster Moves

**The Pirates recalled RHP Ryder Ryan on Saturday, making this the fifth time that Ryan has been in the majors this year. The right-handed reliever has one more optional assignment to the minors, before the Pirates need to designate him for assignment.

**RHP Braxton Ashcraft returned from the injured list and pitched three innings last night for Indianapolis.

**RHP Alessandro Ercolani also returned from the injured list in Greensboro, throwing two innings in relief.

Pirates Prospect Watch

Ashcraft threw three shutout innings last night. Down in High-A Greensboro, Termarr Johnson hit his ninth homer of the year, while Mitch Jebb hit his sixth homer and stole three bases. Read about all of Saturday’s action in the latest Pirates Prospect Watch.

Pirates Prospect Watch: Braxton Ashcraft Returns With Three Shutout Innings

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Tim Williams
Tim Williams
Tim is the owner, producer, editor, and lead writer of PiratesProspects.com. He has been running Pirates Prospects since 2009, becoming the first new media reporter and outlet covering the Pirates at the MLB level in 2011 and 2012. His work can also be found in Baseball America, where he has been a contributor since 2014 and the Pirates' correspondent since 2019.

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