Since last season ended, the West Virginia Power were expected to get a prep pitcher this season from the 2017 amateur draft class. That prep pitcher wasn’t expected to be Cody Bolton. We were fully expecting first round draft pick Shane Baz to be that player. In fact, we were told during Spring Training that he would likely join the Power in late April or early May. Prep pitchers drafted after the first round go to Bristol in their first full year in the system…at least that’s where they have all been going before now.

Before I get in to Bolton, there is some good news to report on Baz. When we announced that Bolton would be joining West Virginia, that article also mentioned that Baz has had some control issues in his starts, which has kept him in Extended Spring Training down at Pirate City in Bradenton. He made a start since then and the report I got said that he dominated that day and was pounding the strike zone. We already had positive reports on his velocity, so that’s a nice combo if he can keep it up.

Back to Bolton, because this is his day to shine. Regardless of what he actually does today, the fact that he’s starting for West Virginia is impressive enough. It took some injuries to create openings, but there were much more experienced starting options to choose from in Extended Spring Training for a replacement. Bolton got the call because he earned it this spring. Down at Pirate City, he was on the same pitch/inning limit as Max Kranick, who debuted on Monday, so Bolton should be good for five innings today if he limits his pitches.

When we first got a look at Bolton during Spring Training, he was noticeably stronger, filling out his 6’3″ frame. He was also throwing slightly harder and his secondary pitches looked sharper. In our 2018 Prospect Guide, we rated Bolton ahead of Steven Jennings, who was drafted 42nd overall last year. That was based on the live looks and report we got for both players. Bolton took a noticeable step forward this spring, while Jennings took a step back due to a rib injury, so there is an even bigger gap between the two at this point. We don’t do an updated prospect list until July, but it looks like Bolton could be moving up from his current #29 spot.

As I wrap up this little write-up on Bolton, I’ll mention that whenever I put a starting pitcher in the title of a Morning Report on the day he’s starting, it gets rained out about 110% of the time. So if (when) that happens, I’ll just link this article tomorrow.

There would be one unfortunate fact about me tempting fate right here. The Power are in Columbia, which broadcasts games online to watch. This is their last day there before returning home, where they haven’t joined the 21st century yet and don’t show games online. I’d really like to watch the start, but I poked at the baseball weather gods anyway.

** In the transaction section, you’ll notice that JT Brubaker was assigned to Altoona yesterday. It was to make room on the Indianapolis roster for Nick Kingham. Right now I’m assuming it’s just a paper move and Brubaker would make his next start in Indianapolis, since he has put up strong numbers in three starts with Indianapolis and he’s a better prospect than 3/5 of their rotation. We will see if that’s the case or he got squeezed out due to a numbers game.

** We added the Playoff Push section back today. In case you don’t know, both the Florida State League (Bradenton) and the South Atlantic League (West Virginia) play a split schedule, where the first half winner gets home field during the playoffs. That means that either Pirate affiliate can clinch a playoff spot next month, regardless of their second half record. We will keep track of their playoff push until the first half is over, then that section will disappear until later in the year when all nine affiliates start to reach the end of their season. So enjoy the playoff race for the next month.

PLAYOFF PUSH

Bradenton is in third place in their division, 4.5 games behind the leader with 24 games remaining in the first half.

West Virginia is in third place in their division, 4.5 games behind the leader with 26 games remaining in the first half.

TODAY’S SCHEDULE

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates won 5-4 over Cincinnati in 12 innings on Wednesday night. They will send Ivan Nova to the mound for his 11th start today. He tossed six innings against the San Diego Padres in his last start, allowing two runs on six hits and no walks. The Reds scheduled starter is right-hander Luis Castillo, who allowed one run on six hits and five walks over five innings against the Chicago Cubs in his last start. He has a 5.61 ERA in 51.1 innings over ten starts, with 50 strikeouts and a 1.50 WHIP.

The minor league schedule includes the rare occurrence mentioned above. Cody Bolton, who was the sixth round pick last year, makes his first full-season start today with West Virginia. He’s the first Pirates prep pitcher to go to low-A ball the year after he was drafted since Jameson Taillon did it back in 2011. Altoona starter Dario Agrazal is coming off of his worst game of the season. He allowed seven earned runs and saw his ERA go from 1.30 to 2.45 at the end of the day. Indianapolis starter Tyler Eppler had his worst start this season last time out. He gave up seven runs over 4.1 innings. He had allowed nine earned runs all season prior to that game. Cam Vieaux gets the start for Bradenton. He allowed one run over six innings in his last start and last time he faced today’s opponent (Jupiter) he surrendered two runs over six innings.

MLB: Pittsburgh (26-21) @ Reds (17-32) 12:35 PM
Probable starter: Ivan Nova (4.79 ERA, 43:8 SO/BB, 56.1 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (23-20) vs Louisville (14-28) 1:35 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Tyler Eppler (3.60 ERA, 37:10 SO/BB, 40.0 IP)

AA: Altoona (21-20) @ Bowie (21-23) 6:35 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Dario Agrazal (2.45 ERA, 28:7 SO/BB, 47.2 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (23-20) vs Jupiter (28-16) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Cam Vieaux (3.89 ERA, 35:13 SO/BB, 44.0 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (24-19) @ Columbia (24-20) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Cody Bolton (0.00 ERA, 0:0 SO/BB, 0.0 IP)

HIGHLIGHTS

From Indianapolis on Tuesday, Jordan Luplow’s two-run double gave the Indians an early lead.

RECENT TRANSACTIONS

5/23: JT Brubaker assigned to Altoona.

5/22: Jesus Liranzo promoted to Indianapolis.  Jackson Williams assigned to Morgantown.

5/22: Tyler Jones released.

5/21: David Lee retired.

5/21: JT Brubaker activated from Temporary Inactive List

5/21: Cody Bolton added to West Virginia roster. Dylan Busby placed on disabled list.

5/20: Pirates activate Josh Harrison from DL. Nick Kingham optioned to Indianapolis.

5/19: Pirates recall Nick Kingham. Max Moroff optioned to Indianapolis.

5/19: Sean Keselica added to Altoona roster.

5/19: Brett Pope added to West Virginia roster.

5/18: Travis MacGregor and Joel Cesar placed on disabled list. Max Kranick added to West Virginia roster.

5/18: Pirates recall Austin Meadows. Starling Marte placed on the disabled list.

5/17: JT Brubaker placed on temporary inactive list. Jackson Williams added to Indianapolis.

5/14: Jin-De Jhang assigned to Altoona. Jackson Williams assigned to Morgantown.

THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY

Two former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus three games of note, one against one of the best pitchers ever. First with the players and both of them played over 100 years ago. Pitcher Jack Pfiester, who played for the 1903 NL champs, was an unfortunate player for the Pirates. Pfiester also played for the Pirates in 1904, but didn’t show much either season and was sent to a minor league team in Omaha. After a couple years of seasoning, he returned with the Chicago Cubs and was a dominate pitcher until health and arm issues ended his career early. Pfiester finished with a career 2.02 ERA, which is the fourth lowest all-time for any pitcher with over 1,000 innings.

Also born on this date, infielder Sam Barkley, who played second base for the first Pittsburgh team in National League history. When the Pirates (then called the Alleghenys) moved to the NL in 1887 from the American Association, Barkley was the Opening Day second baseman. He only played two seasons in Pittsburgh (also 1886) but got to play in both leagues for the team.

On this date in 1894, the Pirates completed an improbable comeback against Cy Young. Down 3-0 before the top of the first was over, and 4-0 before they got on the board, pitcher Red Erhet pitched 8+ innings in relief and the Pirates scored two in the seventh and two in the eighth for the win. The Pirates lineup that day included HOF manager Connie Mack behind the plate, HOF first baseman Jake Beckley, the franchise’s all-time batting average leader in Jake Stenzel and the man many claim is responsible for the Pirates team name, Louis Bierbauer.

On this date in 1959, the Pirates swept the Cincinnati Reds in a doubleheader, with both games ending in pinch-hit walk-off doubles. Both were hit by catchers, with Danny Kravitz collecting the first one and Smoky Burgess hitting the second one in the tenth inning. You can view those boxscores here: Game one  Game Two

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