Chad Kuhl showed up Monday in PNC Park's home clubhouse and, to borrow his own words when he saw that I spotted him, "It's like seeing a ghost, huh?"
Yeah, a little.
But never mind that. Because with Jameson Taillon going down to his own Tommy John surgery in the past week -- Kuhl's, of course, came last summer -- his name has been on a lot of lips of late as the Pirates have to search for rotation help between now and the start of the 2020 season. Which is when Kuhl's expected to be ... if not all the way back, then close. He'd been throwing side sessions with no issues in Bradenton, Fla., and he'll proceed with that program here now.
I had to ask where he sees himself fitting, if maybe he's the one to take Taillon's place.
"My focus this entire time has been selfishly on myself, in a weird way," Kuhl answered. "My focus is to become the best version of myself that I can possibly be. Nothing about the scope or shape of our roster has changed that. I'm going to finish out these 14 to 16 months becoming the best pitcher I can be."
I tried again: Starting pitcher?
"I would love to. Not my call. But if I had my way, I would obviously love to be a starting pitcher. I've always been a starting pitcher, and that's where I see myself."
The emphasis was added because some starters return from Tommy John as relievers. And even when Kuhl was healthy, his inconsistencies often gave rise to discussion that maybe he'd be better suited for the bullpen.
We'll see. This much is certain: A rotation that relies solely on Trevor Williams, Joe Musgrove, Chris Archer, Steven Brault, Mitch Keller and Dario Agrazal won't go far. Help is needed. And not just depth.