Keller limited the Rays to one run on three hits and a walk in three-plus innings Sunday. He struck out five batters, DK Pittsburgh Sports reports. He threw his mid-90s fastball up in the zone effectively and was removed after walking the leadoff hitter in the fourth inning. "I thought he was better today," manager Derek Shelton said. "That was a really positive step forward for him." Keller matched his strikeout total from his first three outings combined. The righty is expected to make two more appearances before the regular season starts.
Keller gave up three runs on three hits and one walk in 2.1 innings against Toronto on Monday. He struck out a pair of batters. He surrendered a two-run homer to Danny Jansen among the hits he allowed. After an encouraging first spring start, Keller's Grapefruit League earned-run average has climbed to 7.50 through three appearances and six innings. The expected loss of Steven Brault (shoulder) helps Keller's chances of sticking in the rotation, but he's not setting himself apart from the team's other options.
Keller allowed two runs on three hits and a walk in 1.2 innings against Boston on Wednesday. He struck out three batters. He gave up an opposite-field homer to Jarren Duran but otherwise pitched well. Keller was removed from the game after reaching his 33-count pitch limit. So far the righty is making a strong case for opening the season in Pittsburgh's starting rotation.
Keller hurled two scoreless innings in Pittsburgh's Grapefruit League opener Saturday. He allowed two hits with no walks or strikeouts. He was sitting mid-90s with his fastball. Keller was torched for 10 earned runs in four spring innings last year and perhaps the outing helps to give the righty a bit of confidence in an otherwise meaningless game. Keller compiled a 7.13 ERA and 1.83 WHIP in 11 starts and 48 innings in 2019. He did show promise with 65 whiffs and a 28.6 strikeout percentage.
Keller will start Pittsburgh's Grapefruit League opener against the Twins on Saturday, Adam Berry of MLB.com reports. Keller will open up Grapefruit League play for the Pirates, and the plan is for him to go one or two innings before exiting. The 23-year-old struggled in his first taste of the majors in 2019, though his underlying numbers suggest he deserved better results.
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