The Pittsburgh Pirates will continue their youth movement Sunday when starting pitching prospect Max Kranick makes his major league debut in a road assignment against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Kranick got his first call to the big leagues while at Triple-A Indianapolis. The field staff pranked him — they claimed he had been caught with pine tar — before giving him the good news.
“I had to ask if they were kidding,” the right-hander told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Saturday. “I wish I could have seen my reaction. I was caught so off guard. It was unbelievable.”
The Pirates will be shooting for a series victory. They won the first two games on this four-game series at Busch Stadium before the Cardinals won 3-1 Saturday to snap their five-game losing streak.
“I know our team is a lot better than we’ve played,” Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright said after earning that victory. “We’re going to win some games here real soon. A lot of them.”
Kranick, an 11th-round draft pick in 2016, jump-started his career while reworking his mechanics to produce shorter arm action and greater velocity. He mixes four-seam fastballs up in the strike zone with cutters and curveballs down in the zone.
“I have been consistent with my off speed stuff and being able to land it 0-0 or 2-0 and a cutter when I am behind the count,” Kranick, 23, told WOLF-TV. “I don’t have to go to [fastballs] all of the time.”
Kranick was 1-0 with a 4.02 ERA in three starts at Double-A Altoona this season, then 1-2 with a 4.66 ERA in four starts at Indianapolis. He has an overall 3.47 ERA over 280 minor league innings.
The Cardinals will counter with Johan Oviedo (0-3, 4.62 ERA), who is still searching for his first big league victory.
“I think we have a few talented guys who are going to pick up the slack here,” Wainwright said. “I think [Oviedo] is on his way to being a superstar.”
Oviedo sustained an 8-2 loss to the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday. He allowed six runs, but just two earned, on six hits and three walks in 3 2/3 innings. Oviedo appeared to lose focus after committing a costly throwing error.
“This is why we get an opportunity to have him gain experience, to be able to go and slow something down,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said.
In six of his eight starts, Oviedo worked just 4 1/3 innings or fewer.
Oviedo lost his only career start against the Pirates, during the 2020 season. He allowed two runs on four hits and two walks in five innings in a loss on Aug. 27.
The Cardinals will have John Gant available in the bullpen for this game after removing him from the starting rotation.
“In 2019 Johnny won 11 games coming out of our bullpen, helped us win our division,” Shildt said. “He was a crucial piece of that. He was a crucial piece of being able to bridge a game that was close and hold it there.”
–Field Level Media