The Pittsburgh Pirates promoted right-handed relief pitcher Nick Mears to Altoona on Saturday. He was signed as a non-drafted free agent last August and will now be at his third level this season.

Mears debuted briefly with Morgantown last year, throwing four shutout innings over three appearances, with eight strikeouts. He began this 2019 season with Greensboro, where he put up a 3.09 ERA in 11.2 innings before moving up. He got that promotion because he had 19 strikeouts and a .128 BAA.

In Bradenton, Mears posted a 3.60 ERA in 30 innings, getting some chances to close out games as well. He held batters to a .202 BAA, while picking up 43 strikeouts. He had a 1.03 WHIP at both stops.

Mears was sitting 94-95 MPH last year in Morgantown right after he signed. I saw him up to 97 MPH earlier this year, but in one of his last outings, he was sitting 98-99 MPH. He didn’t hit 100 MPH in that game, but he did earlier this year. His out pitch is a curve and it’s one of the better ones in the system for relievers. His control has been much better in Bradenton than it was with Greensboro, so with that strong two-pitch mix (he also has a changeup), the 22-year-old Mears should do well at Altoona.

Right-hander Ryan Valdes returned from the injured list to take the place of Mears in the Bradenton bullpen.

UPDATE: Mears will be replacing right-hander Cody Bolton, who was placed on the injured list with a right finger blister. There’s no word on his return, but my guess would be that he is done for the season with only 16 days left on the minor league schedule. He’s over 100 innings this year after pitching about 70 total innings between Extended Spring Training and West Virginia last year, so this might just be a convenient way of shutting him down for the season.

UPDATE #2: Right-hander Oliver Garcia has moved up to Greensboro. The 21-year-old began the year with Bristol, then breezed through Morgantown, throwing six no-hit innings over five appearances. Garcia struggled as a starter last year in Bristol, but he looked much better this season in shorter relief outings. He is replacing Colin Selby, who was placed on the injured list.

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