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Hard-throwing Paul Skenes eager to show the Pirates what he’s got during his first spring training

 WBN  |    Feb 14th, 2024 3:46pm EST

BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) — Paul Skenes would love to be on the Pittsburgh Pirates’ opening-day roster.

However, the top overall pick in last year’s draft isn’t stressing out while taking part in his first major league spring training.

The hard-throwing 21-year-old right-hander and the rest of the Pirates pitchers and catchers took part in their first workout on Wednesday. It was Skenes’ first time in a big league uniform. The towering 6-foot-6 former LSU star certainly looked the part, even if it felt a little surreal.

“Just being my first spring training, I think it’s going to be valuable to get used to it,” Skenes said. “I just have to. With that said, obviously I’m trying to win a spot, but it’s not all in my control. All I can do is go out and pitch well, do my work and it will take care of itself.”

Though the Pirates have two openings in their rotation, it seems unlikely that Skenes will begin the season in the big leagues.

Skenes made his professional debut last season by pitching in five games combined with Low-A Bradenton and Double-A Altoona. He allowed four runs – all in one game – over 6 2/3 innings while striking out 10.

The Pirates were careful not to pitch Skenes very much because he had worked 122 2/3 innings in 19 starts while helping LSU win the College World Series. Skenes had a dominant year for the Tigers, finishing with a 13-2 record, 1.69 ERA and 209 strikeouts after transferring from the Air Force Academy.

Regardless of what Skenes’ chances are of heading north with the Pirates, Pirates manager Derek Shelton is happy to get a chance to see Skenes’ stuff up close. Skenes has a fastball that reached 100 mph regularly last spring at LSU.

“I think it’s a situation where you take a guy as high as we did in the draft and then we kind of eased him into professional baseball, but to be able to see him live is exciting,” Shelton said. “His progression as he continues to pitch, we’re happy about. To see him in person and be able to get him on the mound, I think it’s something organizationally that we’re excited about.”

Part of that progression will include Skenes pitching in exhibition games. The Pirates begin Grapefruit League play on Feb. 24.

“To get him out there, to get him in competition, as much as we learned about him personally, not being able to see him, but to watch him compete, it’s going to be really important for us,” Shelton said.

Skenes plans on using the entire spring as a learning experience and has already been seeking advice from some of the Pirates’ veteran pitchers.

“It was nice to have the offseason and get some good work on my own, but I think there is something valuable to being on a team, getting to work with the same guys every day,” Skenes said. “We’ve got a lot of good guys with a cool pedigree in the major leagues that hopefully I’m going to pick their brains on it. I’m just looking forward to that.”

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AP MLB: https://apnews.com