TODAY: Kuhl underwent TJS, meaning he’s slated for a year or more or rehab before he’ll be expected to return to action.
YESTERDAY: Pirates right-hander Chad Kuhl underwent surgery on his right elbow earlier today, team director of sports medicine Todd Tomczyk announced to reporters (Twitter link via MLB.com’s Adam Berry). The team hasn’t provided further details just yet, so it’s not clear whether the operation was Tommy John surgery or a less severe procedure. Kuhl hadn’t pitched since late June due to a forearm strain and tightness in his elbow, and he’d recently suffered a setback upon trying to ramp back up for a September return.
The 26-year-old Kuhl has started 61 games for the Bucs across the past three seasons, emerging as a useful and cost-effective back-of-the-rotation arm for manager Clint Hurdle. Through 313 big league frames, the former ninth-round pick (2013) has worked to a 4.37 ERA while averaging 7.9 K/9, 3.6 BB/9 and 1.09 HR/9 to go along with a 41 percent ground-ball rate. His timetable for a return, obviously, won’t be known until the club divulges further details.
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If Kuhl’s surgery allows him to return in time for Opening Day 2019 or early in the season, he’ll figure to be in the mix for a rotation spot alongside Jameson Taillon, Chris Archer, Ivan Nova, Joe Musgrove, Nick Kingham and Trevor Williams. Pittsburgh has a fairly deep stock of MLB-ready rotation pieces, though, which could potentially push Kuhl to the ’pen — especially if the team intends to be conservative in terms of his workload following a season in which he was limited to 85 innings.
It’s not the way that Kuhl or the Pirates were hoping his season would end, but he’ll have ample time to work his way back into the fold for the team in future seasons. Kuhl will finish out the year with two-plus years of Major League service but fall well shy of Super Two status, meaning he won’t even be arbitration-eligible until after the 2019 season. Pittsburgh currently controls him through the 2022 campaign.