There’s hope in Pittsburgh once again as the team has managed to remain in the thick of contention in the tough NL Central. Much of their success has been thanks to the strong backend of their bullpen, but that strength took a hit today as the team was forced to place closer Jason Grilli on the disabled list. The team made a handful of other moves as well – activating Neil Walker from the DL, designating Brandon Inge for assignment, and calling up Vic Black.
Grilli was forced to leave Monday’s game in the 9th inning with what the team called a forearm strain. As expected, speculation across social media immediately jumped to the worst-case scenario as many feared that not only was Grilli seriously injured, but that his forearm tightness was an early sign that he’d inevitably need Tommy John Surgery. Grilli, himself, shot down those rumblings without wasting much time. The right-hander posted on Twitter following the game that it was merely a minor setback and he’d bounce back in no time, referring to the adversity as a positive that he’d overcome.
The 36 year old has flourished in his first season as a full time closer. He’s made 45 appearances on the year, saving 30 games with a 2.34 ERA and 0.921 WHIP. His selection to last week’s All Star Game was the first of his career. Mark Melancon will likely fill in while Grilli is sidelined.
Walker’s return will be a welcome sight for the Pirates, as the team has seen little production at second base in his absence. Walker himself has not had a strong year at the plate, hitting .244/.347/.384 in 293 PA, but he’s still viewed as an integral piece of the team’s core for the foreseeable future. He’s just 27 and despite the downtick in the numbers has shown some improvements on the year, particularly with a significant cutback in his strikeouts.
Black will be making his MLB Debut once he appears in a game for the Pirates. The 25 year old has spent the year with the team’s Triple-A Indianapolis affiliate, posting a 2.31 ERA and 0.943 WHIP over 35.0 IP. He’s saved 15 games with a strong 13.1 K/9. Black was the 49th overall selection in the 2009 Draft by the Pirates and was pitching at Triple-A for the first time. He’ll presumably work in middle relief for the Pirates until Grilli returns.
As for Inge, his time with the Pirates was going to be coming to an end soon regardless of the timing. The 36 year old had signed a minor league deal with the Pirates before Spring Training and has failed to impress in limited action with the team. He’s hit just .181/.204/.238 in 110 PA with just four extra base hits (3 2B, 1 HR). His plate discipline has been a real concern, as he’s walked just twice against 32 strikeouts. Inge has made himself more versatile defensively this year – having seen time at first base, second base, shortstop, and right field in addition to his usual third base – but it’s failed to make much of a difference in his status with the team long term.