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Immediate Future Might be Murky for Quinn Priester

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Quinn Priester, Pittsburgh Pirates

PITTSBURGH — Quinn Priester reverted back to some familiar bad habits for the Pittsburgh Pirates in their 9-0 loss to the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday.

Entering play, Priester had put together back-to-back solid outings for the first time in the big leagues. On the Pirates’ most recent road trip out west, Priester threw six-shutout innings agaisnt the San Francisco Giants and again went six innings while allowing two runs against the Oakland A’s.

Back at PNC Park against the Angels, though, Priester wasn’t able to escape the fifth inning.

“I just think a little too much focus on throwing strikes,” Priester said on what plagued him. “Certainly that is the goal. That’s what you want to do every time but it’s also not great to hyper-focus on it. Just go out there and keep continuing to move smoothly and we probably avoid a lot of that.”

Priester’s night began in similar fashion to his previous two starts. The 23-year-old allowed a single base runner through the game’s first three innings.

However, he ran into trouble in the fourth. Five Angels’ hitters reached base and Kevin Pillar belted a three-run home run to left field to put the Pirates in a 3-0 hole.

The Angels added two more runs in the fifth inning, aided by a Priester error. Manager Derek Shelton came out to get him after Nolan Schanuel singled home a run with two outs.

“The first three innings, I think the sinker was good,” manager Derek Shelton said. “He was aggressive with it. The slider had bite to it. And then it just looked like his stuff kind of ticked back a little bit.”

Priester’s season ERA now sits at a respectable 3.86 mark, but the underlying metrics are not in the young right-hander’s favor. He’s already surrendered six home runs in 21 innings pitched on the year and has only struck out 12 batters.

As the coaching staff would do after any outing, Priester’s start on Tuesday — as well as all he’s done so far this season — will have to be assessed.

As the Pirates weigh what Priester has shown, the thought of the looming promotion for top prospect Paul Skenes will have to be in mind.

So far, the Pirates are playing their cards close to the vest about a possible call-up despite heavy speculation that Skenes could make his big-league debut this weekend against the Chicago Cubs.

Shelton addressed the speculation around Skenes before Monday’s game and simply said that he’s scheduled to pitch for Triple-A Indianapolis this week.

While that is true, plans can always change.

The timing seems right for Skenes to pitch in Pittsburgh during the Pirates’ next series. The right-hander pitched on four days rest for the first time in his career on Sunday. On four more days of rest, Skenes’ turn in the rotation would come on Friday night.

As a whole, the Pirates’ rotation has pitched well this season. Mitch Keller tossed a complete game against the Angels on Monday. Jared Jones has been brilliant in his rookie season. Martín Pérez has been what the Pirates hoped for when they signed him as a free agent and fellow left-hander Bailey Falter has overall been a pleasant surprise.

If the Pirates ultimately do promote Skenes this week, and there’s no real logical reason as to why they shouldn’t, Priester could be the odd man out.

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