The Pirates placed right-handers Mitch Keller and Michael Feliz on the 10-day injured list, the club announced. Keller is dealing with left side discomfort while Feliz is suffering from right forearm discomfort. Right-hander Cody Ponce and southpaw Sam Howard were called up to fill the two spots on the 30-man active roster.
Keller and Feliz both left the Pirates’ 4-3 loss to the Cubs on Saturday. Keller tossed 2 2/3 innings before bouncing a pitch to Willson Contreras and promptly asked for a trainer visit to the mound before leaving the game. Feliz also made an immediate departure in the eighth inning, following a pitch to Jason Heyward.
Keller’s injury hints at a possible oblique strain, and even minor oblique problems have been known to sideline players for at least a couple of weeks. If the strain ends up being more severe, Keller’s entire season could possibly be in jeopardy. Feliz’s issue is perhaps even more ominous considering how forearm injuries can sometimes lead to Tommy John surgery, though he doesn’t have a past history of forearm or elbow issues.
Losing the two pitchers is a big hit to a Pirates team that is already short on reliable pitching options. In the bigger picture, Keller’s injury might also present a significant setback to one of the team’s top young assets, as Keller has been a consensus top-100 prospect for the last four years. He didn’t impress in his first Major League action last season (a 7.13 ERA over 48 innings), though the 24-year-old was still slated to be a major part of Pittsburgh’s rotation plans both in the present and in the future.
Feliz may still be best known for being part of the four-player package sent to the Pirates from the Astros in the January 2018 Gerrit Cole trade, though the righty quietly delivered some solid bottom-line numbers in 2019. Feliz posted a 3.99 ERA, 2.70 K/BB rate, and an 11.7 K/9 over 56 1/3 innings, having some problems with home runs (1.8 HR/9) but also limiting opposing batters to just a 29.2% hard-hit ball rate.
Both Ponce and Howard will be making their debuts on the Pirates’ roster. Howard posted a 5.87 ERA over 23 innings with the Rockies in 2018-19 before being claimed off waivers during the offseason. He moved exclusively to relief pitching in 2019 after mostly working as a starter in his five previous pro seasons in Colorado’s farm system, and Howard has also displayed some reverse-splits tendencies over his career.
In Ponce’s case, this will be his first time in the big leagues. A second-round pick for the Brewers in the 2015 draft, Ponce came to Pittsburgh as the return for Jordan Lyles last July, and Ponce owns a 3.83 ERA, 3.36 K/BB rate, and 8.0 K/9 over 418 2/3 minor league innings. He has worked as both a starter and reliever in the minors, so Ponce could potentially get some rotation work for the Bucs either as a proper starter or as part of a piggyback system.