Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Kuhl aims to build on 2020 showing

- By Mike Persak

The 2020 season was a good bounce-back year for Chad Kuhl.

The 28-year-old Pirates right-hander pitched for the first time since 2018, when Tommy John surgery ended his season prematurel­y. In his return to the mound, Kuhl pitched 46.1 innings over the 60-game season with a lower WHIP than he had in his previous two major league seasons and a comparable strikeout rate.

Even still, it could have been better.

For one, Kuhl had a really bad blow- up game against the Kansas City Royals on Sept. 13. In that outing, he allowed nine runs with six walks and four hits through 2.1 innings. It inflated his ERA from 3.38 before the game to 5.50 afterward.

What’s more, Kuhl says now that he really didn’t have his two-seam fastball to feature as prominentl­y as he would have liked last season. He said Tuesday that during his rehabilita­tion from Tommy John, he was mostly throwing four-seam fastballs as he worked back to health. Then the season came, and that was the pitch he was most comfortabl­e throwing.

Now, Kuhl hopes to bring back the two-seamer again, to help him keep hitters offbalance against him and continue to cultivate a strong arsenal.

“I just think the consistenc­y was kind of the last thing to come around, especially with the fastball,” Kuhl said. “We were just tinkering with the fastball. I didn’t really have the twoseam I could rely on, so I was kind of in a spot where I was definitely throwing a lot more four-seamers and not as accurate as I felt like I could be and burning pitches and stuff like that. So I’m not really sure that I ever really got there to that consistenc­y, so that’s something to look for this year, for sure.”

It’s important for the Pirates that Kuhl does continue to develop.

In a sense, he and lefthander Steven Brault are the two elder statesmen after Jameson Taillon, Joe Musgrove, Trevor Williams and Chris Archer departed this offseason. More important, the Pirates would be better off as a franchise if Kuhl and Brault can impress in 2021, even if it’s just to make them more attractive trade candidates.

It should help Kuhl that he has a clean bill of health heading into this year. He was helped by the delay of the 2020 season in that it allowed him a bit more time to rehab and make sure he was healthy before the season began.

At the same time, it wasn’t easy for Kuhl to ramp up to a full, starter’s workload in 2020. After a start Aug. 14 against the Cincinnati Reds, Kuhl was cripplingl­y sore. “It was tough just to brush my teeth,” he said. It makes sense, given that it was the first time he’d thrown five innings of game action in more than two years.

After his next start against the Milwaukee Brewers, Kuhl says he felt better. That was his first win in more than two years.

Late arrivals

The Pirates welcomed two veteran players to spring training Tuesday, as infielders Erik Gonzalez and Wilmer Difo participat­ed in their first workouts. They endured travel delays coming from the Dominican Republic.

Tickets on sale

Remaining spring training tickets will go on sale at 10 a.m. Wednesday. Those looking to purchase tickets after an online presale for season ticket holders earlier this month can visit Pirates.com/springtrai­ning or call 877-893-2827. For those in Florida the box office at LECOM Park will be open.

 ?? Matt Freed/Post-Gazette ?? Chad Kuhl was 2-3 with a 4.27 earned run average in 2020.
Matt Freed/Post-Gazette Chad Kuhl was 2-3 with a 4.27 earned run average in 2020.

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