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Pirates GM Ben Cherington Talks Paul Skenes Development



Paul Skenes, Pittsburgh Pirates

PITTSBURH — Prized prospect Paul Skenes had another strong showing in his latest start with Triple-A Indianapolis on Wednesday afternoon.

The 2023 first-overall pick was scored upon for the first time this season, but set career-highs in innings (4.1) and pitches (71). Skenes held the Omaha Storm Chasers to a pair of runs, one of which was earned. He walked a batter and struck out seven.

On the season, Skenes has a miniscule 0.53 ERA through five starts. In 17 innings, he’s struck out an astonishing 34 batters and has walked five while holding opponents to a .164 batting average.

The already fast-rising prospect isn’t knocking on the door at this point, he’s ready to kick it down.

Pittsburgh Pirates general manager Ben Cherington met with members of the media at PNC Park prior to Wednesday’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers. As expected, Skenes was at the forefront of the discussion.

“We see the pitch-mix coming into form,” Cherington said. “Working on efficiency, when he’s using the secondary and starting to build the pitch count up now. Not surprised that he’s having success, but more underneath that just being intentional about what he’s doing. He’s working on things that will allow him to be a good major league pitcher…”

Skenes is considered baseball’s top pitching prospect in addition to being the Pirates’ top prospect in the system.

Fans have eagerly awaited Skenes’ promotion from the time he was announced as the top pick in the draft, but it still doesn’t sound like the Pirates are quite ready to make that call.

The Pirates have been cautious with his buildup as he progresses at the highest minor-league level. He went three innings in his first two starts and worked into the fourth inning in his next two. Wednesday marked the first time in his career that he’s worked into the fifth inning.

“He’s starting to build now. He’s starting to get closer to that range,” Cherington said. “We will continue to work with him and assess where he is and give him feedback. Listen to him and how he’s doing with it and see what happens.”

Though Skenes is about as polished as a prospect can be, his high strikeout totals have created at least some questions about efficiency. In his start last week, Skenes needed 65 pitches to record 10 outs.

Cherington, however, did not seem concerned about the matter.

“Efficiency is going to be specific to him. The guy that’s gonna live on ground balls and nine pitch innings, that may not be him. It’s efficiency related to who he is as a pitcher. That’s what we’re going after.

“Obviously he’s done that in the past. He knows what he has to do, to do that. And at the same time, he’s still working on pitches. Trying to get better at things. It’s exciting. We appreciate and respect how good he wants to be. He’ll challenge himself and also challenge us on that too, which is a good thing.”

So while the Pirates aren’t feeling overly-urgent to promote their top prospect to the big leagues, Skenes is getting closer and closer to reaching Pittsburgh.

If he keeps pitching like he has to start the year, it will only be a matter of time.

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