Right-hander JT Brubaker will make his major league starting debut on Thursday afternoon and try to help the host Pittsburgh Pirates snap a seven-game losing streak against the red-hot Minnesota Twins.
The 6-foot-3, 185-pound Brubaker (0-0, 0.00 ERA) is replacing the injured Mitch Keller (oblique) in the rotation and earned the starting nod after two strong relief appearances this season -- blanking the St. Louis Cardinals on three hits over two innings while striking out four, and then limiting the Chicago Cubs to one hit and a walk over three innings last Saturday while striking out three.
Now he faces a Twins team that has the best record in the American League (10-2) and has won six in a row.
"I'm just going to go out there and do the same thing I've been doing on the mound, just throwing competitive pitches and going right after hitters," Brubaker told MLB.com.
It will also be the 100th start of Brubaker's professional career. A sixth-round draft choice out of Akron in 2015, he had a 31-28 record and 3.60 ERA in five minor league seasons and was named Pittsburgh's Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2018 after compiling a 2.81 ERA in 28 starts between Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis.
"It will probably be a bit dependent on how he's pitching and how he feels," Pirates manager Derek Shelton told triblive.com when asked how long he expects Brubaker to go. "We are definitely going to need innings (from the bullpen) because of the fact it's not going to be a seven-inning (appearance), unless he can throw seven innings on 45 pitches, which I would sign up for in a heartbeat."
Minnesota, off to the best start after 12 games in team history, will start right-hander Kenta Maeda (2-0, 1.64) as it tries for its second consecutive two-game series sweep of the Pirates.
Maeda is 2-1 with a 4.42 ERA in three career starts against the Pirates while with the Los Angeles Dodgers, including 1-1 with a 6.30 ERA in two starts at PNC Park. He comes in off a 3-0 victory over the Cleveland Indians on Saturday at Target Field in Minneapolis, in which he allowed just an infield single and a walk over six innings while striking out six.
Maeda won his Minnesota debut in Chicago against the White Sox, 14-2. He has allowed just five hits and two walks over 11 innings while striking out 12 so far.
"He came over (from the Dodgers in a February trade), and I think during spring training we could see the potential of him," catcher Mitch Garver told MLB.com. "Now that we've kind of gotten into the season, we understand what makes him so good."
The Twins opened their eight-game road trip with a 5-2 victory over the Pirates on Wednesday night as right-hander Randy Dobnak, moved into the rotation at the start of the season when All-Star Jake Odorizzi went on the injured list with a back injury, celebrated his homecoming with six shutout innings while allowing three hits.
Dobnak grew up about 20 minutes away from PNC Park and estimated he had attended about 150 Pirates games during his lifetime.
"It was really special for me just to get out there and pitch on the mound that I grew up coming to the games all the time," Dobnak said.
--Field Level Media