A Look at Recent Highly Anticipated Pitching Debuts for the Pirates

Sometime soon, the Pittsburgh Pirates will call up right-handed pitcher Mitch Keller. A lot of signs point to Monday’s doubleheader in Cincinnati being his possible debut, but nothing has been announced yet. Whether he starts that game or not, he’s on the verge of making his highly anticipated debut for the Pirates. With that in mind, I wanted to take a look back at the debuts of three other prospects who were in a very similar situation as Keller right now.

Keller has been a top 100 prospect for quite some time now, ranking closer to the top of that list for most people. The Pirates have had three similar pitching prospects over the last six years. When I say similar, I mean the situation, the prospect rankings and the anticipation among fans to see them debut. I’m putting aside the scouting reports here to look at the big league debuts of Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow.

Yesterday, Ethan Hullihen looked at Cole Tucker being called up early and how it related to super two status for players. Just like Keller, the other three pitchers made their debuts mid-season. With Taillon and Cole, they certainly seemed ready before they were called up. Glasnow was not ready at the time, we even said that here often, but the fans wanted him up in April/May, and the longer it took, the more the anticipation grew.

For Keller, he seems to be ready at the perfect time. After a slow start to the season and a recent outing that lasted just three innings, his last two starts have been his best looking games so far. Another start or two at Indianapolis wouldn’t hurt him because he is working on a new pitch, but with the MLB season starting earlier than usual, he has probably cleared the super two mark by now, and Monday would be an even safer date to call him up. Just like with the other three pitchers, most people wanted him up sooner, but he clearly wasn’t ready earlier this season.

The key thing here is that regardless of whether they should have been up sooner (or later in Glasnow’s case), there was a lot of anticipation around these players because fans were hearing about them being top prospects for years. So here are looks at the three most recent highly anticipated debuts and how these top prospects fared during their first shot at a big league lineup.

Gerrit Cole debuted on June 11, 2013 at home against the San Francisco Giants. His mound opponent was two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum. The Pittsburgh Pirates were playing well at the time, owner’s of a 37-26 record, which had them in second place, four games back in the standings. They finished a road trip against the Braves and Cubs with a 2-4 record over those six games. The final Cubs game was on a Sunday and they had an off-day to travel home.

There was actually talk of Cole making his debut on the 11th four days prior to him being called up, so that helped build the anticipation even more. That day, 30,614 paid customers showed up and got everything they hoped for from the 22-year-old first overall pick.

Cole allowed two singles in the first inning, but kept the Giants off the board. He was shaky in the second, but still scoreless. Cole allowed two more singles and hit a batter, before getting a fly ball to end that second inning.

In the bottom of the second, Cole put the Pirates ahead 2-0 with his first big league hit, driving home Russell Martin and Pedro Alvarez.

That was followed by a stretch that really got the crowd excited. Starting in the third inning, he retired 12 batters in a row, working four straight perfect innings.

Cole faltered in the seventh, but left to a standing ovation with a 5-1 lead. The Pirates would win 8-2 that day. Cole went 6.1 innings, allowing two runs on seven hits, with no walks and two strikeouts.

Here’s the boxscore for Cole’s debut.

Jameson Taillon made his debut on June 8, 2016 at PNC Park against the New York Mets, facing off against Noah Syndergaard. The Pirates announced a day earlier that he would make his debut on the 8th, giving fans who wanted to see his first game about 24 hours notice. The Pirates had a 32-26 record at the time, which put them 8 1/2 games back in the division. On the 7th, the Pirates won both games of a doubleheader by matching 3-1 scores over the Mets, so Taillon was trying to lead the Pirates to a three-game sweep.

In his first inning, Taillon worked around an infield single to pitch a scoreless frame. He got a grounder back to him from Neil Walker for the final out.

In the second with a 2-0 lead, Taillon gave up a lead-off single. That was followed by three quick outs to end the inning. The third inning had a walk, but nothing else.

The Mets tied the score in the fourth on a two-run homer by Ty Kelly, but the Pirates took back the lead in the bottom of the inning on a John Jaso double that scored Sean Rodriguez.

New York once again tied the score, this time getting a fifth inning double by Syndergaard, followed two batters later by a sacrifice fly.

Taillon finally retired the side in order for the first time in the sixth inning. In the bottom of the inning, Cole Figueroa pinch-hit for Taillon, ending his day with 91 pitches.

Taillon finished with three runs on six hits and two walks, with three strikeouts in six innings. A crowd of 28,084 watched the Pirates lose 6-5 that night. Taillon didn’t factor in the decision.

Here’s the boxscore.

Tyler Glasnow made his debut on July 7, 2016, nearly one month after Taillon. Unlike the other two, Glasnow made his MLB debut on the road. He took on the St Louis Cardinals in a Thursday afternoon game in front of 42,144 fans. His mound opponent was veteran Adam Wainwright. The Pirates had a 44-41 record on the time, on their way to a 78-83 record for the season. News of Glasnow’s debut was broken the day before by Buster Olney.

Glasnow walked the first batter he faced in the majors, but the rest of his first inning was easy, recording outs on the next three batters. The Pirates gave him a 1-0 lead to work with in the top of the second on a Jordy Mercer RBI ground out.

The second and third innings were smooth sailing for Glasnow, who retired nine in a row at one point. It started to get a little bumpy in the fourth, as Aledmys Diaz led off with a triple. Glasnow retired the next two batters, but his own wild pitch let Diaz score to tie the game.

In the bottom of the fifth, Randal Grichuk homered off of Glasnow to give the Cardinals the lead.

The sixth began with a double by Greg Garcia. After an out, Glasnow walked the next batter, which ended his day. He threw 87 pitches, with 55 going for strikes. Arquimedes Caminero followed and quickly closed the books on Glasnow’s day by serving up a home run, allowing both inherited runs to score.

Glasnow finished with 5.1 innings, allowing four runs on three hits and two walks, while picking up five strikeouts. The Pirates lost 5-1 that day.

Here’s the boxscore.