PITTSBURGH — Chad Kuhl will take the mound at PNC Park for his fifth major-league start Tuesday night, facing the San Diego Padres. The question is, which Chad Kuhl will show up?
Through 16 starts with Triple-A Indianapolis this season, Kuhl has maintained a tidy 2.37 ERA by forcing opponents into a stream of ground balls with his two-seam fastball. But when he was in Pittsburgh for four starts earlier this season, he was leaving his two-seamer elevated and got knocked around at times as a result.
“He keeps that low-to-mid 90s sinker in the bottom of the zone and gets them to beat the ball into the ground and throws enough good sliders and good changeups to mix and match,” general manager Neal Huntington said Sunday. “He’s going to be a successful major-league pitcher. He did that on occasion, but more often than not, he was elevated, and that’s not how he’s going to be a successful pitcher. A few minor adjustments, get him back to pounding the bottom of the zone, and he has a chance to keep this spot in the rotation.”
Kuhl had a chance to go back to Indy and make those adjustments, but a triceps injury limited him to just one full start. In that start, he gave up four hits and one run in six innings while striking out six, continuing his Triple-A dominance.
Manager Clint Hurdle thinks the experience of having pitched in the majors without his best stuff will end up being a benefit in the long run.
“To not have the sinker of the quality that he had in the minor leagues up here and be able to navigate, at least, through some games … what I’m holding onto is that it’s a wonderful experience for him from that standpoint of not having his ‘A’ game, having to make pitches and getting the opportunity to do it against much tougher lineups.” Hurdle said. “I think that has been a big benefit for him moving forward and I think it paid of a little bit for him when he got to Washington and faced a very good lineup and had obviously his best start to date.”
Hurdle also credited Kuhl’s makeup for not — ahem — losing his cool while things weren’t going well.
“The young man has a lot of edge on the mound,” Hurdle said. “I think that’s always going to play well for him.”
GLASNOW GETS GOING
Tyler Glasnow threw a three-inning sim game before batting practice and Hurdle saw no red flags:
“I watched the first two ups. He had one more. It was going to go three [innings] up there. From what I saw, there were no draw backs or no hold-backs. I haven’t gotten any information back from Ray if a gun was involved. I haven’t talked to the any of the catchers that were involved, either. Hopefully, I’ll be able to do that and then I’ll have more information later.”
Glasnow was caught by also-rehabbing catcher Chris Stewart.
“Stewart caught two of the innings and then he wanted to get some at-bats, so we had our bullpen catcher Jordan, catch the third inning,” Hurdle said. Eric Fryer and Adam Frazier also took at-bats against Glasnow.
The next step for both Glasnow and Stewart is a rehab assignment, but Hurdle did not have a plan or a time frame for either.
Gregory Polanco (left shoulder) and David Freese (left elbow) will both return to the starting lineup. Polanco is hitting cleanup for the first time in his career.
— Pittsburgh Pirates (@Pirates) August 9, 2016
ON FOCUS AND DISCIPLINE
Hurdle was asked to elaborate on his post-game comments Sunday, on which he took the blame for the team’s sloppy play by saying those things “end up on his desk.” Specifically, he was asked if mental issues like Jordy Mercer getting picked off on first base, Starling Marte getting caught stealing third running through a stop sign and John Jaso not running out a grounder to first base have been a concern. He gave a lengthy and thoughtful answer, and I think it pretty much stands on its own:
“Every year, there’s challenges that come across for a baseball club, whether it be physical [or] some perception of mental focus. I just know that everything that doesn’t go well needs to end up on this desk. My job is to accept responsibility and be accountable for things that don’t work. My job is to also applaud the things that are going well when things do work. I’d like to take no credit and take all the blame.
“From my lens, there are things that are always going on. I wouldn’t say [there’s more this year]. When you don’t win, everything is magnified. I just know there’s times when you have to remind people of things and there’s times where you [have to] get people’s attention with things. That’s kind of like a pat on the back or a smack on the backside. Both are appropriate. Timing is everything.
“[It’s just] getting them one-on-one and talking to them. Sometimes there’s situations where you take care of it during a game. You don’t want the same situation to possibly present itself [again] during the game. The one thing I’m mindful that you have to do that you didn’t have to do back when I played is that you have to take them down in the tunnel. You don’t want everybody to see them. I would be concerned about that, too [if I was a player now], because we don’t have any space, we don’t have anywhere to go. Everything’s going to be played up, blown up and magnified. There’s times when I take them down in the tunnel. If I don’t take them down in the tunnel, I do it after the game. Some times, I need a night to think it through, and then I’ll grab them before the next game.”