Kuhl, 28, tested positive for Covid-19, per the Pirates, so he’ll be sidelined a minimum of 10 days under this year’s health and safety protocols. The right-hander has been a serviceable back-end starter for the Bucs, pitching to a 4.43 ERA in 67 innings this year. However, he’s also averaged fewer than five innings per outing while posting sub-par strikeout and walk percentages (20.1 percent and 12.2 percent, respectively).
The 26-year-old Spitzbarth will make his MLB debut the first time he gets into a game with the Pirates. He’d spent his entire pro career with the Dodgers prior to the 2021 season, having joined the organization as a nondrafted free agent back in 2015. Generally speaking, he’s struggled in the upper minors — at least until the 2021 season. This year, Spitzbarth has pitched to a 1.41 ERA through 32 innings of relief work. Other metrics aren’t as bullish, as evidenced by a 4.42 FIP and 5.09 xFIP. Spitzbarth has benefited from a .202 average on balls in play and a 90.9 percent strand rate so far in Triple-A. Nevertheless, he’ll get his first look in the big leagues more than six years after first signing.
Also of note, manager Derek Shelton revealed to reporters that left-hander Steven Brault is expected to start tomorrow’s game for the Pirates (Twitter link via Mike Persak of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). The 29-year-old Brault hasn’t pitched yet in 2021 owing to a forearm strain suffered late in Spring Training. At the time, it was announced that he’d be shut down at least a month and could miss as much as 12 weeks with the injury, but the timetable proved even lengthier than that.
Brault has spent the past several weeks on a minor league rehab assignment, pitching a total of 12 innings between Class-A and Triple-A as he’s begun to build up for a return to the Pirates. He’s tossed four innings in each of his past two outings, totaling 58 and 56 pitches in that pair of starts (and allowing just one earned run). He’s unlikely to jump from that point to 90-100 pitches in a single outing, but he could give the Pirates four or five innings if he’s reasonably efficient tomorrow.