Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Jared Jones delivers during the first...

Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Jared Jones delivers during the first inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals in Pittsburgh, Wednesday, July 3, 2024. Credit: AP/Gene J. Puskar

PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Pirates are shutting down rookie right-hander Jared Jones for at least two weeks while he deals with a right lat strain.

The team placed the 22-year-old Jones on the 15-day injured list on Thursday after he exited his start against St. Louis after five innings a day earlier with discomfort in his right side.

Pittsburgh manager Derek Shelton said Friday that Jones has a grade 2 strain and will be re-evaluated after his two-week break. Jones was already expected to be out until after the All-Star break. The team gave no timetable for his return.

The Pirates have attempted to play it safe with Jones, who is 5-6 with a 3.56 ERA in 16 starts. They let him skip a turn in the rotation during a trip through Cincinnati and Atlanta. He pitched one simulated game during that downtime.

Shelton doesn't believe the break had anything to do with the injury but is unsure if it can be connected to Jones' overall workload. Jones has thrown 91 innings this season and was on pace to blow past his totals in the minor leagues, where he threw 122 2/3 innings in 2022 and 126 1/3 innings last year.

“To say that this happened because of certain usage, I don’t think we can say that,” Shelton said. “I don’t think we cannot say that. If we had it figured out, that this is the perfect scenario to use every single guy, then we would do that and there would not be pitching injuries.”

The setback comes at a time when the Pirates are trying to stay in the National League playoff picture. Pittsburgh entered play on Friday at 41-45, four games back of St. Louis for the third and final wild-card spot.

Pitching has kept the Pirates competitive despite an offense that ranks near the bottom of the majors in most categories.

Pittsburgh isn't sure how it will fill Jones' spot in the rotation, though starters Quinn Priester and Marco Gonzalez are currently on rehab stints in the minors and Luis Ortiz has been effective in long relief and as a spot starter.

“You would never say (you're comfortable) because you can never have enough starting pitching but the fact that we have some depth, I think, is important,” Shelton said.

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