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Pirates’ Mitch Keller looks for bounce-back 2020 season

Mitch Keller is looking to prove himself at the big league level in 2020 with the Pirates.

In his Major League debut at Great American Ballpark on May 27, 2019, 22-year-old Pirates pitcher Mitch Keller had a lot of weight on his shoulders. Keller was the talk of the farm system after a 2018 season in which he pitched in the prestigious All-Star Futures game in Washington D.C., and was ranked by MLB Pipeline and Baseball America as the Pirates top prospect. The right-handed starting pitcher has some of the best stuff in the minor leagues, posting a career 3.12 career ERA.

Keller’s Major League debut did not go as planned. He allowed seven hits and six runs in four innings of work. The following day he was demoted back to the minors. The Pirates promoted him a few more times throughout the season, but he struggled at the big league level, giving up 72 hits in his 11 starts, and posting a 7.13 ERA before being demoted yet again to close out the season.

Before the suspension of 2020 Spring Training, I chatted with Keller about his rookie season.

“I had a lot of good outings and some that weren’t so good, but I’m just taking all those experiences into this year with what I’ve learned and I hope that good things come from it.”

“I’m feeling really good,” Keller said before a February spring game in Bradenton. “We’ve got a great group of guys, new management, new coaches, so it’s a different feel around here, and we’re just all ready to get going for the season.”

When asked about his goals: “Short term, make the team out of spring and go from there…I see myself in the rotation this year…and helping us get a lot of wins,” Keller also telling me he is looking forward to “making all 30 or more starts this year and just staying healthy.”

Keller had a rough first couple outings at Spring Training. He was starting to turn it around just before COVID-19 suspended the MLB season. As of March 27, Keller was on the Pirates 25-man roster, meaning he would have likely been with the team for Opening Day. Looking down the road, the 23-year-old has a long journey in Major League Baseball ahead, and a young Pirates team could significantly benefit from Keller’s success.

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Eli Fishman is a 16-year old college and minor league baseball writer for Double G Sports. He writes about MLB and MLB Draft prospects. Eli has experience broadcasting college baseball and has his own website and YouTube channel where he interviews professional baseball players.
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