Courtesy of StepOutside.org

Williams’ injury further muddles rotation

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The Padres' Austin Hedges is late with the tag on Kevin Newman in the fifth inning Thursday in San Diego - AP

SAN DIEGO – Little information was available about the latest injured Pirates player, though it didn’t look good.

Trevor Williams struck out Wil Myers for the second out of the fourth inning and grabbed his right side. When Clint Hurdle and the trainers came to the mound, Williams didn’t even attempt a practice pitch before walking to the dugout.

Williams had already left the clubhouse by the time it opened to the media Thursday night following the Pirates’ 4-3 loss to the Padres in the opener of a four-game series at Petco Park. Hurdle said he had no more information beyond the fact Williams exited because of discomfort in his side.

However, if Williams is to go on the injured list – which seems likely when you watch the video -- it would further muddle the Pirates’ starting pitching outlook.

Opening-day starter Jameson Taillon is out at least through the end of June with an elbow flexor strain. The Pirates have had such a difficult time finding a replacement that they are considering using an opener Saturday night against the Padres.

Chris Archer returned from the injured list Wednesday after missing three weeks with right thumb inflammation. He was rocked for seven runs in 3 2/3 innings in a loss to the Diamondbacks in Phoenix.

Because of the injuries to Archer and Taillon, Steven Brault and Nick Kingham were given two starts each the past two weeks after competing for a rotation spot in spring training, then winding up in relief roles to start the season. Both struggled mightily, though Brault will start Saturday if the Pirates don’t go the opener route. Hurdle said before the game that Kingham will now be used solely in relief.

That leaves Archer, Jordan Lyles and Joe Musgrove as the three current rotation certainties.

Archer’s shaky outing Wednesday did not inspire confidence. Lyles is off to a great start with a 3-1 record and 2.09 ERA in seven turns through the rotation, but he has been the definition of a journeyman during his nine-year career. Musgrove bounced back with one-hit ball over seven shutouts innings Tuesday night in a win against the Diamondbacks but was tagged for a combined 15 runs in 5 2/3 innings in his previous two starts.

The Pirates have said they would prefer to give their top prospect, 23-year-old right-hander Mitch Keller, more developmental time at Triple-A Indianapolis, where he is 4-0 with a 3.83 ERA in eight starts this season. However, they may have no choice but to promote Keller.

Williams, meanwhile, has been the Pirates’ most consistent starter this season, going 2-1 with a 3.33 ERA. Until Thursday, he had pitched at least six innings in all eight starts and walked more than one batter in only one of those outings.

The Padres got only one run off Williams in 3 2/3 innings as Franmil Reyes hit a solo home run to center field in the third. That was just one of two hits allowed by Williams, who struck out five and walked two.

“It’s hard to evaluate his outing tonight,” Hurdle said. “He was out there competing and making pitches like he always does.”

Williams could become the 20th Pirates player to go on the IL this season. They have 10 players currently on the list.

Kevin Newman told me the Pirates (21-20) have learned to deal with the injuries and aren’t fazed when another player hits the IL:

THE ESSENTIALS

• Boxscore
• Video highlights
Scoreboard
• Standings

THE GOOD

Veteran left-hander Francisco Liriano wasn’t assured of making the team until the 11th hour in spring training after a number of shaky Grapefruit League performances.

However, he has shined in the regular season. He relieved Williams and pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings.

In 19 games, Liriano has a 0.89 ERA, allowing two runs on 13 hits in 20 1/3 innings with 20 strikeouts and 10 walks.

THE BAD

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