The Pittsburgh Pirates are on the verge of breaking a 20-year string of losing records, and a strong reinforcement is waiting to resume his contribution. NBC Sports.com's D.J. Short reports that closer Jason Grilli has begun throwing from a distance of 90 to 100 feet and plans to reach 120 feet by Monday night when the Pirates travel to San Diego. His next move would include throwing from a mound within a few more days.
Grilli has been on the disabled list since July 23 with a strained right forearm. He last pitched on July 22 but could not finish the game. At first, the Pirates wondered if he would pitch again this season, but it appears now that Grilli could return by September 1 or very soon afterward. Grilli is 0-1 with a 2.34 ERA, a WHIP of 0.92, and 30 saves for the first-place Pirates.
Meanwhile, Mark Melancon has filled in brilliantly in Grilli's absence. Melancon has picked up six saves since Grilli went down, giving him seven overall. He also has a record of 2-1, an ERA of 0.80, and a WHIP of 0.80 as well. It helped that Melancon has closer experience, having saved 20 games for the 2011 Houston Astros. He will provide insurance in the closer's role should Grilli not pitch as effectively when he returns.
Since the Minor League season ends on September 1, Grilli will not have a chance to pitch rehab games. The Major League rosters expand on the same day, so the Pirates will not have to clear a roster spot for him.
The Pirates entered play on August 18 with a two-game lead over St. Louis in the N.L. Central. They trail Atlanta by 2.5 games for the best record and top seed in the National League. Getting Grilli back at full strength will enhance their chances of taking both honors. The string is broken, and now the Pirates are looking to go far into the postseason, perhaps into the World Series.
Follow Raymond on Twitter @RayBureau.
Like Raymond’s “Baseball Bureau” page on Facebook.
Looking for fantasy baseball advice?