Rookies Williams, Rowley set to face off

Rookies Williams, Rowley set to face off

Chris Rowley's unlikely road to the Major Leagues will culminate on Saturday afternoon in Toronto, as the West Point graduate who missed the 2014 and 2015 seasons to serve active duty in the U.S. Army makes his debut for the Blue Jays.

The 26-year-old right hander will face the Pittsburgh Pirates, who counter with a rookie of their own in Trevor Williams.

Rowley opened the year pitching out of the bullpen in Double-A, but eventually earned a promotion, where he quickly claimed a rotation spot and ran with it. Between the two levels, Rowley posted a 2.29 ERA over 106 1/3 innings.

"I don't think that it's something I understand the magnitude of," Rowley said shortly after arriving in Toronto on Friday. "It's something that I'm trying to appreciate, but at the same time I think that I have a job to do. I've got to go out and do that."

Williams has pitched very well for the Pirates of late, holding opponents to a .188 batting average with a 1.47 ERA over his last three starts. Along with Chad Kuhl, who will start the finale on Sunday, the Pirates have been impressed with their young arms.

"It's an everyday thing," said bench coach and acting manager Tom Prince. "It doesn't stop just because you've had a little success. You continue to do that. They've thrown the ball over the plate. They're willing to compete each and every day. At the end of the day, they evaluate it, and they move forward to the next time they have an opportunity to take the ball, from what I've seen."

Three things to know about this game

• Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin left Friday's game after one inning with a left oblique strain, forcing backup Raffy Lopez into early action. Designated hitter Kendrys Morales and outfielder Norichika Aoki have also been battling illnesses, which will test Toronto's positional depth over the weekend if they aren't able to return to the lineup.

• Pirates' slugger Josh Bell has launched some rockets this season, including his second-farthest home run of 2017 on Thursday in Detroit at 437 feet. Bell now has four homers over 420 feet this season, and two of the team's five longest.

• Rowley won't blow anyone away with his low-90s velocity, but he will mix a sinker, cutter, slider and changeup. In his Minor League appearances this season, Rowley posted a ground ball rate of 47.2 percent.

Keegan Matheson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Toronto. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.