Archer on track to make start on Sunday

By John Mehno

For the Mirror

PITTSBURGH–Chris Archer is on track to make his next scheduled start, Sunday in Milwaukee.

Archer was forced out of his most recent start on Monday when he developed left leg discomfort while swinging the bat. He left the game in the fourth inning after an awkward swing.

Todd Tomczyk, the Pirates’ director of sports medicine, said Archer threw off flat ground on Wednesday and will have a bullpen session today.

Since joining the Pirates in a July 31 trade from Tampa Bay, Archer has started four games and is 1-1 with a 4.91 earned run average and 1.636 WHIP.

In other injury news:

–Shortstop Jordan Mercer (left calf strain) is taking batting practice and taking ground balls. He is not yet running at full speed. Mercer is on the disabled list and may not return until the September roster expansion.

–Third baseman Jung Ho Kang has been cleared for gripping a bat after wrist surgery.

Kang was thought to be done for the season, but Tomczyk said, “We’re still hopeful and optimistic that he’ll have some kind of meaningful at bats this season, whether at Triple-A or in the major leagues with us. He’s trending in a good position.”

Right-handed starter Chad Kuhl (forearm strain) has started to play catch. He’s been out since the end of June.

“He’s responded well to the demands of the throwing program, so we’re going to remain optimistic about him pitching some meaningful innings for us the rest of the season.”

Josh Harrison is dealing with a lingering hamstring injury. Harrison tweaked the hamstring running to first base in Saturday’s game. He was not in the starting lineup Wednesday.

“There are going to be some days when he feels it,” Tomczyk said.

Utility player Sean Rodriguez (left abdominal strain) could be ready to go out on a minor league rehab assignment soon with a likely return to the active roster in September.

Making friends

Archer visited the Steelers’ practice facility Wednesday at the invitation of receiver Antonio Brown.

When Archer first reported to the Pirates after the trade, he wore a replica of Brown’s No. 84 black jersey.

Brown responded by reaching out to Archer. The result was Wednesday’s stop at the Steelers’ practice facility on the South Side.

Archer also met coach Mike Tomlin, general manager Kevin Colbert and many of the other players.

“It was fun,” Archer said. “It seems like Pittsburgh does a good job of getting good high-quality people in their organizations.”

Looking ahead

MLB released the 2019 schedule on Wednesday.

The Pirates open the season in Cincinnati on March 28, then play the home opener against the St, Louis Cardinals on Monday, April 1.

The Pirates will play home interleague games against the Oakland A’s, Detroit Tigers, Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners.

They will visit Houston, Detroit and the Los Angeles Angels for interleague games.

The Pirates will be home on the Fourth of July against the Chicago Cubs. They’ll play road games on Memorial Day and Labor Day.

On the road

The Pirates leave today for Milwaukee, where they’ll open a series on Friday. They’ll also visit St. Louis and Atlanta on this trip. The next home game will be against the Reds on Labor Day.

There are two homestands remaining.

Mehno can be reached at: johnmehnocolumn@gmail.com

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