Steven Brault begins rehab assignment, Will Craig explores overseas gig

Jul. 11—The Pittsburgh Pirates’ reigning most valuable pitcher took another step toward making his 2021 debut for the team.

Steven Brault made a rehabilitation start for the organization’s Low-Class A affiliate in Bradenton, Fla., on Sunday. The veteran left-hander threw 39 pitches in 1 2/3 innings against Clearwater at LECOM Park, allowing a single and two walks while striking out three.

On the 60-day injured list since March because of a left lat strain, Brault had a 3.92 ERA and 1.20 WHIP in 11 games (10 starts) during the abbreviated 2020 season. The 29-year-old is one of the organization’s longest-tenured players. He made his debut with the team in July 2016.

If there are no setbacks, Brault could return by the end of the month.

Craig to Asia?

A day after first baseman Will Craig was a late scratch for Triple-A Indianapolis, Pirates general manager Ben Cherington said Craig is exploring options to join a team in South Korea or Japan.

“Will Craig has an opportunity that has come up, and sometimes guys want to explore an opportunity from teams in Asia,” Cherington said Sunday during his weekly pregame show on 93.7 FM. “So we’ve been talking to Will about that, and he’s expressed interest. So we felt like, and he felt like given where he’s at, it made the most sense not to play last night. We will see where it goes.”

Craig was the Pirates’ first-round pick (No. 22 overall) in 2016. But it’s become increasingly clear he is not in the organization’s long-term plans. Craig, 26, was removed from the 40-man roster this past offseason and repeatedly has been bypassed when a first baseman has been needed by the major league club.

The final straw might have come July 3 when after another bevy of injuries to players who man first base for the Pirates (Colin Moran, Phillip Evans, Erik Gonzalez), the team traded for John Nogowski in lieu of promoting Craig.

In 65 plate appearances over 18 games for the Pirates this season, Craig hit .217/.277/.300. He also made an epic misplay in the field that went viral, chasing a runner back to the plate and allowing a run to score with two outs in a May 27 game against the Chicago Cubs.

Injury updates

Cherington provided injury updates during his radio show, saying Moran (bone fracture in wrist) and outfielders Gregory Polanco (groin strain) and Ka’ai Tom (lower back strain) are “progressing well” while on the injured list.

“We don’t have a specific timeline,” Cherington said. “In a couple of those cases, we are optimistic it’ll be either right after the (All-Star break) or not too long after the break.”

Also, Cherington allayed fears that organizational top-10 prospect Carmen Mlodzinski is seriously injured. A right-hander taken No. 31 overall in last year’s draft, Mlodzinski left a start Saturday during the fourth inning while pitching for High-A Greensboro. He was experiencing shoulder stiffness.

“We won’t think it’s anything serious; it was more precautionary,” Cherington said. “So he will get checked (Sunday) to see where he’s at.

“We’re trying to be cautious with guy.”

Right-hander Luis Oviedo (quad strain) has made two appearances in a rehab assignment for Indianapolis, albeit they have not gone well statistically (six runs on eight hits and two walks in 3 2/3 innings).

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Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris by email at cadamski@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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