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Pirates “Haven’t Figured Out” Top Prospect’s Major League Debut

The rumored major league debut of Pittsburgh Pirates top prospect Paul Skenes is apparently just that – a rumor. Skenes, the No. 3 prospect in major league baseball, was rumored to get the call in time to start against the Chicago Cubs at PNC Park this weekend. However, Pirates manager Derek Shelton recently threw cold water on that notion. Thus, fans must wait longer for the most highly anticipated debut since the Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964. Shelton and general manager Ben Cherington speak of the need for Skenes to “check boxes” before he’s ready. With last Sunday’s start for triple-A Indianapolis, it was thought he checked his final box by pitching on four days’ rest for the first time as a professional. In his previous start, he reached a pitch count of 75, his highest as a professional.

His girlfriend, social media star Livvy Dunne, dropped a hint by posting a photo of his Pirates jersey on Snapchat. Oddly, there’s a woman’s purse in the photo, too. Presumably, Skenes won’t be bringing that to the mound with him. In any event, it was seen as a confirmation of the rumor about the Pirates debut of Skenes.

“We Haven’t Figured It Out Yet”

Of course, the timing of Skenes’s debut isn’t up to Dunne. Shelton told the media that Skenes was scheduled to start for Indianapolis this weekend. As for when we might see Skenes in the majors, Shelton said, “We haven’t figured it out yet.”

Shelton can be as forthcoming to the press with information as your favorite NFL coach – meaning, not at all. The notion that they “haven’t figured it out yet” is absurd. Shelton and Cherington have often spoken of having a careful plan in place to get Skenes ready. How can they not have a target date in mind for his debut?

Might the Pirates Be Planning to Make the Rumor of the Skenes Debut a Reality?

Could the Pirates be throwing their fans a curveball and planning to bring Skenes up this weekend? It’s possible but seems unlikely at this stage. One would think they’d time the announcement to create a buzz for a few days and thus stimulate ticket sales. In any event, let’s look at the pros and cons of bringing Skenes up now. Then we’ll ponder how his presence affects the rotation.

Pros and Cons

Besides the fact that Skenes has dominated in triple-A, one reason in favor of calling him up this weekend is the upcoming schedule. Friday begins a 10-day stretch where the Pirates play the Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers. Both teams are ahead of the Bucs in the National League Central Division standings. The schedule now provides for fewer intra-division games due to expanded interleague play. Such games are more crucial than they’ve ever been. One would think the Pirates would want to go against these teams with their best. Surely, Skenes would represent one of their best. The big right-hander wasn’t drafted to be a fifth starter or long reliever.

In the Pirates’ defense, Skenes won’t help with their biggest problem, which is scoring runs. Their starting rotation has been the least of their worries. Rookie Jared Jones has received plenty of attention by reaching new milestones with every start. However, the rest of the rotation hasn’t been too shabby. As of Wednesday’s action, collectively, the Pirates’ starters, not counting Josh Fleming, who was used as an opener in one game, have a 3.68 ERA, 1.179 WHIP, and 3.2 strikeout-to-walk ratio, notwithstanding Tuesday’s 9-0 drubbing at the hands of the Los Angeles Angels.

Additionally, in Skenes’s most recent start, he pitched 4 1/3 innings, surrendering two earned runs and for the first time, a home run. For some, that wouldn’t be considered too bad an outing, but it was his worst as a professional. As it was also his first time on four days’ rest, the Pirates might want to see more of him in triple-A.

When Skenes Arrives

Everybody will have a rumor about when the Pirates will decide to debut Skenes. Let’s look at what makes sense. After this weekend, his next scheduled start for Indianapolis will occur while the Bucs are on the road. The Pirates surely want him to debut at home, along with all the hype that will surround it. The Pirates return home on May 21 against the San Francisco Giants. If Skenes continues to pitch on four days’ rest, the game on the 21st will coincide with his turn. That might be the target date for his debut.

Who’s going to be the odd man out of the Pirates rotation? Shelton could alternate Quinn Priester or Bailey Falter as the fifth starter based on how they match up with the opponent when their turn comes up. Alternatively, a six-man rotation might be used temporarily, meaning nobody will be bumped. Against the New York Mets earlier this season, Jones was pulled after just 59 pitches and five innings of one-hit baseball. The bullpen turned a 1-0 lead into a 3-1 loss. Shelton told the media that he and the coaching staff decided on the limit to manage Jones’ workload. Later, Cherington disavowed this action. Ever since, there have been no extraordinary limits on Jones. If a six-man rotation sounds a bit out of left field, perhaps it could be a way to limit the workloads of Jones and Skenes without pulling them from games early when they’re dominating hitters.

The Last Word

So, this is where we stand, until the next rumor about when the Pirates will debut Skenes. In the meantime, please keep visiting this site for updates.

Main Photo: © Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports


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