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Pirates Call Up Top Prospect for Saturday Debut

After quelling talk of promoting Paul Skenes to the major leagues this weekend, the Pittsburgh Pirates have done just that. Skenes will debut on Saturday against the Chicago Cubs at PNC Park.


Manager Derek Shelton had previously told the media that the Pirates hadn’t “figured it out yet” about Skenes’s callup, as reported here. Meanwhile, Skenes’s girlfriend, gymnast Livvy Dunne, posted a photo of Skenes’s Pirates jersey on Snapchat, teasing that a promotion was imminent.

So what changed? Perhaps Shelton and the Pirates’ brain trust “figured it out” over the last couple of days. Maybe Shelton was gaslighting the media once again. Maybe Dunne was calling the shots all along. Or maybe Shelton and general manager Ben Cherington read our previous article and were persuaded by our brilliant analysis of the “pros” of bringing Skenes up. We’ll go with the latter.

Pirates Are Promoting Skenes

Every self-respecting baseball fan knows the story by now. Skenes pitched Louisiana State University to the 2023 College World Series championship. In 19 games for LSU, covering 122 2/3 innings, he was 13-2 with a 1.69 ERA, 0.750 WHIP, 209 strikeouts, and 20 walks. That amounts to 15.3 strikeouts per nine innings and a 10.45 strikeout-to-walk ratio. His fastball has been clocked as high as 102 mph. The Pirates were impressed enough to make him the No. 1 overall pick in last year’s June Amateur Draft.

Skenes impressed in three spring training innings but was ticketed for triple-A Indianapolis from the start. In seven starts at triple-A, with his workload carefully managed, Skenes had a 0.99 ERA and .915 WHIP. Most impressively, he had 45 strikeouts in 27 1/3 innings. Once he got his pitch count up to 75 and showed he could be effective on four days’ rest, he had nothing more to prove in the minors. It became time to bring him up, just in time for a stretch of 10 important intra-divisional games.

Skenes has drawn comparisons to Stephen Strasburg of the Washington Nationals, who was drafted in 2009. Certainly, now that the Pirates are promoting Skenes, his debut will be the most anticipated by a pitcher since Strasburg’s. Ironically, Strasburg debuted against the Pirates in 2010. Before that game, Pirates right fielder Delwyn Young famously said of Strasburg, “What’s he got? Two eyes, two ears, a nose, and a mouth.” Young, whose major league career was otherwise forgettable, touched up Strasburg for a two-run home run that evening. They were the only runs surrendered by Strasburg, whose Nationals won 5-2.

The Last Word

The baseball world will be watching. Can Skenes dominate the Cubs as he did to every college and minor league team he faced? Or do the Cubs have a Delwyn Young of their own among them?

As of this writing, the Pirates have not announced a corresponding roster move to make room for Skenes.

Main Photo Credits: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports


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