Brault thinks he belongs after first quality start

Pirates rookie goes six solid innings in loss to Brewers

Brault thinks he belongs after first quality start

MILWAUKEE -- After two starts, it's unclear how Steven Brault fits into the Pirates' rotation the rest of the season. But Brault quickly learned how he fits in at the Major League level.

"What I've learned is my stuff plays as long as I'm hitting my spots," Brault said after putting together a quality start in a 3-1 loss to the Brewers on Friday night. "That's just how it's going to be forever."

His second big league start, nearly 3 1/2 weeks after his debut, was an even mix of good and bad -- but the end result was encouraging, perhaps even more so because Brault wasn't at his best.

The 24-year-old lefty, Pittsburgh's No. 18 prospect according to MLBPipeline.com, allowed seven hits and three walks over six innings. Only 58 of his 106 pitches were strikes. But he limited Milwaukee to three runs, two on a Chris Carter homer in the first inning and another on back-to-back doubles in the sixth.

"There wasn't a clean inning out there. However, he made pitches," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "I thought it was very blue collar."

There were mistakes, including the hanging slider to Carter that soared well over the Brewers' left-field bullpen and another to Keon Broxton that drove in Scooter Gennett.

But Brault pitched through the traffic and struck out Brewers leadoff man Jonathan Villar, hitting .299, to escape two jams. With runners on second and third in the second, he got Villar to swing and miss at a full-count slider. Facing the same situation in the fourth, he froze Villar on a full-count fastball.

"When you look back on the start, I see it as there's all these things I need to improve, all these things I need to work on. And there are," Brault said. "As long as I can capitalize on that moving forward, it's a positive base to move forward from."

But where will Brault move forward? Hurdle was noncommittal when asked before the game if the left-hander was up to stay for a while, saying there were some factors at play that the rookie couldn't control.

The Pirates only need four starters over the next week, and three of them will be Gerrit Cole, Francisco Liriano and Jameson Taillon. Who else will join them down the stretch?

Left-handers Jonathon Niese and Jeff Locke are in the bullpen, with Niese likely remaining there and Locke's role in flux. Tyler Glasnow is on the disabled list, Chad Kuhl is temporarily sidelined with a right triceps injury and Ryan Vogelsong is nearly ready to return.

The Pirates are considering adding a starting pitcher before Monday's non-waiver Trade Deadline, which could further crowd the rotation.

Will Brault be a part of that picture? To be determined. Is he ready to be part of it? He may have answered that Friday night.

"The idea I have of, 'Do I belong?' Yeah, I think I do. I'm ready to compete," Brault said. "I'm ready to help my team win. As long as I'm hitting my spots and playing my game, then I'll be fine."

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.