Brian McCann unlikely to be ready by Opening Day

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Less than a month ago Braves catcher Brian McCann said he was optimistic about being ready to return from shoulder surgery by Opening Day, but apparently that optimism has vanished.

“I’m not close,” McCann told David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution. “Just started hitting off a tee. I started throwing last week, from 45 feet. Sixty feet this week. I’ve thrown a total of six times. Next week hopefully at 90 feet, and just go from there. I’ve got to build my arm strength back up.”

So what’s the new timetable? Well, he hasn’t officially been ruled out for Opening Day, but O’Brien writes that “doctors won’t clear him for full-on playing in games until April 15.” Which seems to suggest the new “optimistic” return date is probably late April and it shouldn’t surprise anyone if McCann doesn’t play at all during the season’s first month.

Pirates set to promote top prospect Mitch Keller

Mitch Keller
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MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo reports that the Pirates will promote top pitching prospect Mitch Keller in advance of their doubleheader against the Reds on Monday. Confirmation of the move is still pending an official announcement, but Keller will reportedly face off against Sonny Gray in Game 2.

Keller, 23, is currently listed as the Pirates’ no. 1 prospect and the no. 16 overall prospect in the league, per MLB.com. He was selected in the second round of the 2014 amateur draft and has spent the last six years refining his technique in Pittsburgh’s farm system, where he recently made the jump to Triple-A Indianapolis in 2018. So far this season, he’s 5-0 in nine starts with a 3.45 ERA, 3.8 BB/9, and 10.7 SO/9 through 47 innings.

It’s not clear how long of a leash the Pirates will give Keller, though given the current state of their rotation — down to four serviceable starters with Jameson Taillon on the 60-day injured list (right elbow flexor strain), Trevor Williams on the 10-day IL (right side strain), and a handful of replacements yet to impress — they may be inclined to keep him on a little longer than his spot start requires.