More confident Keller sharp in spring debut

BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Pirates got some good performances from most of their young pitchers Saturday, but fell short against the Twins in the spring opener, 2-1.

Mitch Keller got the start and looked good, going two scoreless innings with only two hits on his ledger. His fastball sat in the lower 90s, a promising sign for the first start of the season.

"It's always good to get the first one done and build off of that," Keller said. "I think it's a good test to see where you are, and I feel really good where I'm at right now."

While the Pirates' top pitching prospect has said he is approaching this spring like he needs to earn a spot on the roster, it seems safe to assume he is going to be slotted into the rotation for opening day.

Still, if he is looking to have a better spring than he did in 2019, Saturday's start was certainly a departure from a year ago.

"Last year I struggled I think every single game I pitched up here," Keller said. "[This year, I] have a different attitude. More confidence going out there."

Keller didn't flinch fielding his position either, grabbing a pair of comebackers, including one which he used to get the lead runner out as he tried moving to third.

"I know there were probably some nerves for him," Derek Shelton said of Keller's day. "New manager, new pitching coach, go and pitch in front of them for the first time. But I thought the ball came out of his hand pretty well."

Jacob Stallings praised his pitcher, but thought Keller was not quite as sharp as he had been in the live batting practice in Pirate City and left a couple fastballs over the middle.

"That's nitpicking really," Stallings said. "I thought he was good, and I think it was a really good first day for him."

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