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The Grilled Cheese contingency plans …The NL Central loses Ryan Braun and Matt Garza (and why that hurts the Pirates)


SOUTH HILLS COMMAND CENTER – The Pirates’ win last night was costly as closer Jason Grilli left the game with two outs in the ninth in severe pain.


Grilli left with a right-arm injury, what the club is describing as dreaded “forearm tightness,” a symptom that can often be a sign of a UCL ligament tear.


You never want to see an athlete walk off the field like that, particularly a good guy like Grilli. And a long-term injury to Grilli could destabilize the Pirates’ bullpen, what has been the team’s top strength this season. We’ve seen what happens before when a closer goes down and the rest of the bullpen arms are forced to jump up a role, it doesn’t always work out well.



Yes, I’m aware Grilli was on the cover of Sports Illustrated last week. Further fodder for jinx advocates


If Grilli is down for an extended period of time: I see the Pirates having three contingency options:


Plan A: Mark Melancon becomes the closer and everyone else jumps up a role.


Justin Wilson and Tony Watson are suddenly coming in games an inning early as key set up men, the problem is they are both left-handed. Perhaps Vic Black is called up to replace Grilli and give the Pirates another right-handed power arm.


Melancon’s been great but moving him to the ninth-inning is an unknown. I think he would be fine — though some think closing is much different than setting up. I think it’s the trickle-down effect into the bridge innings is the area that is concerning if Melancon is forced to close. Pitchers entering the 5th, 6th and 7th innings are going to be weaker arms if Grilli is hurt.


Plan B: Make a trade.


If the Pirates learn Grilli has sustained a severe and/or season-ending injury they have a week to make a deal before the deadline. They can find a new closer, perhaps, or find more bullpen depth. But this is tricky as trading for relief help is often a no-win situation for the team acquiring it: See: Chris Davis for Koju Uehara and Brian Giles for Ricardo Rincon


Plan C: Leave everyone else in their roles and promote a new closer


Let Melancon keep pitching the eighth, leave Wilson and Watson alone in their current roles. Limit disruption as much as possible  by inserting, say, Vic Black in the ninth.


Neftali Feliz and Aroldis Chapman have recently proven talent trumps experience in the bullpen. Black is not in their category but he’s having a very nice year at Triple-A and I think he can get the games final three outs more often than not. Chance of this happening, virtually nil.




Ryan Braun showed the country how not to apologize yesterday in agreeing to a rest-of-the season ban for his involvement in suspected PED use. He trotted out “I’m not perfect,” he apologized to anyone he “may have disappointed,” and how noted how tough it (his PED use and subsequent lies?) have been on him and his family.


But I’m not going to get too involved in Braun-related news today, the national outlets have that covered.


Matt Garza was also traded from the Cubs to the Rangers yestreday and the Cubs returned a decent package for a rental, assuming infield prospect Mike Olt bounces back and pitchers C.J. Edwards lives up to his potential.


What these two moves have done is weaken the Have-Notes in the NL Central.


The bad news for the Pirates is the Cardinals have 18 more games against the Brewers and Cubs, the Reds have 16, and the Pirates have 13. Advantage: Cardinals and Reds, whose schedules are a bit more favorable than the Pirates going forward.


All in all, the Pirates can’t afford many more Mondays like this going forward … even if the day includes a win.


– TS



  1. JimBibbySweat says:

    Grilli was also on the cover of “Sports Weekly” last week. Here are some interesting notes on the number of pitches by Pirates relievers.

    Justin Wilson (833) 6th most among all relievers
    Tony Watson (725) 31st
    Jason Grilli (700) 46th
    Anthony Mazzaro (684) 53rd
    Mark Melancon (638) 71st

    Drew Smyly leads relievers with 989 pitches

  2. JimBibbySweat says:

    *Vin* Mazzaro

  3. Nate83 says:

    Thanks Jim for the information.

    The good news is Wilson use to be a starter so his workload is probably not that big of an issue. Also Melancon’s number is not all that bad so going forward if he closes I don’t think it should be an issue. Morris isn’t even on the list and his workload should get heavier but he should be able to handle it.

    For what it is worth I would be OK with Black or even Welker taking over the closer role and allowing everything else to stay the same. I’m a big fan of keeping bullpen routines the same. Black already closes so the role is not different and everyone else would stay the same. I agree with Travis that it is highly unlikely this happens.

  4. BostonsCommon says:

    I’m all for calling Black or Welker up, especially if you’re not a fan of Hughes. But sticking them directly into the closer role is foolish.

    People say there’s no difference between pitching the 8th or pitching the 9th, and you can believe either side really, and I won’t care. But there is a difference between pitching the 9th against Toledo, Scranton/WB, and Norfolk compared to St. Louis, Cincinnati, and Atlanta. If you want to call them up, I’m all for it, but make them earn their way, and prove themselves every step. Don’t just stick a rookie in the bottom of the 9th to take on Holliday or Votto.

  5. Nate83 says:

    What is the difference between pitching to them in the 7th or the 9th? He still facing all-stars at some point. Black throws it really hard. Harder then Melancon (harder then Grille). He is also missing a lot of bats. If he is up and is going to be used why not leave everyone else the same. I know I will be in the minority on this but everyone is fulfilling their role in the bullpen tremendously this year. Why change the role of 5 or 6 guys when you can just keep everything the same.

  6. Jeff Z. says:

    Who cares about the Schedule. Really we have to play the same amount of Games as everybody else so if this team is to make a run or Just get over .500 they will have to play GOOD BASEBALL against anybody.

  7. BostonsCommon says:

    You kind of made my point for me, just better than I did. It’s great that Black and Welker are blowing away AAA hitters, but you cant assume they will blow away Major Leaguers.

    If you do bring them up, I’d rather see them tested in lower leverage situations to see how their stuff plays and if they can get big leaguers out. Once they’ve proved that they can blow away guys at that level, then go ahead and start moving them toward the back end. I just want to see them get a few outs before they’re being asked to close out the game, that’s all.

  8. Nate83 says:

    remember how easy the schedule was supposed to be in August last year? That didn’t go so well so maybe this way will work instead.

  9. Nate83 says:

    You can’t assume Melancon, Watson, Wilson and Morris can be as effective in their new roles either. So why not just keep them doing what they are doing well and only change one variable. Which really isn’t much of a variable because Black already only uses two pitches and has the correct mentallity of here’s my best try to hit it.

  10. BostonsCommon says:

    I think pitching in a new role is a safer bet than pitching in a new league against a dramatically higher talent level.

  11. BostonsCommon says:

    Look I still want to see Black called up. I think he has the stuff to work the 9th, I just want to see him get some outs before hes trusted to win games, that’s all.

  12. Jeff Z. says:

    No i dont remember. its the pirates and august they have not gone together since 92 i was 13 then im 33 now. the Schedule Bologna is for the weak. you still have to play the game on the field. and also since this is the best Staff since at least 92 they SHOULD be O.K who knows what decent lately deal neal will come up with. im predicting Not much something like 2 yrs ago with SLUGwick and Im about to be retired Derek Lee. so yeah Minimal at best but we’ll see huh?

  13. Nate83 says:

    I understand that completely and I also know that a vast majority of people would agree with you on this instead of me. I’m not trying to change your mind just explaining my logic which I am sure is very flawed in this case.

  14. Keith says:

    There is no way the Pirates do anything but move Melancon to the 9th. I would predict a combo of Watson and Morris as the setup guys, with Wilson continuing as the “do-it-all” guy. From outside, that doesn’t look like much of a drop-off. We’ll see!

  15. Travis Sawchik says:

    Interesting stuff, Jim.

    I think Hurdle has done a nice job managing the pen, considering the lack of innings throw by the starting staff

  16. Travis Sawchik says:

    I’d be shocked if Melancon isn’t the fill-in closer and I think he’ll be fine there … but, again, it’s the trickle down effect, particularly if there’s multiple injuries

  17. Leo Walter says:

    Nate,what roles are you changing ? The only difference will be what inning the guy comes into pitch.Melancon pitching one inning in the 8th is no different than pitching 1 inning in the 9th. Not only that,he saved 2o for Houston just 2 years ago. What is the difference if Justin Wilson comes in and throws 2 innings number 7 and 8,or number 6 and 7 for another example ? I sure don’t get the logic behind that thinking.

  18. NMR says:

    I’m not so sure Hurdle has managed the pen IN SPITE of the starters lack of innings or if Hurdle is the reason the starters have lacked innings.
    And thats not a critique, its a compliment.
    With a bullpen as good and as deep as the Pirates have had, doesn’t it stand to reason that one of them fresh is better than most of our starters nearing 100 pitches?
    People throw around the low innings by starters, high innings by relievers as a knock on this team, yet nobody ever really says why. The ASSUMPTION, is that a starter gives you better performance than a reliever, but I have a hard time accepting that as truth for this team.

  19. Chuck H says:

    I remember well, how it used to be. There was no such thing as a closer. If the starter
    faltered in the middle or late in the game, the manager would pick out his best reliever to come in and try to finish the game. That was not too many years ago, and there were more complete games, too. The Pirate situation calls for improving the bench so that they have someone to count on for, at least, a sac fly. GO, BUCS!!

  20. Nate83 says:

    Leo as Travis pointed out you are changing every role. That can not be debated because it is fact. What can be debated is if changing those roles would change their perfermance. I think Melancon will be a great closer he has done it before and been good in that role. I also think Black would do very well in that role.

    The fact that the team has so many viable options to replace a guy who has played at the caliber of Grille is awesome. I’m OK with either solution. I think both would turn out OK. I just don’t think the third option of Black closing that Travis brought up should be dismissed so quickly. It has merit and other players have come up and been closers right away. There is no rule that says you have to pitch in the bullpen for 2 or 3 years before becoming a closer.

  21. Nate83 says:

    I like the use of the period to add a space. I don’t know why the entries on this blog don’t leave a space no matter how many lines you leave between comments.

  22. Leo Walter says:

    Travis :You have not convinced me. Both you and Nate have a built in contradiction when you talk about a ” trickle down effect “,yet say you think brionging Vic Black up and makin him the closer would be fine with both of you ! Explain the ” trickle down effect ” then .What I treally think is that you folks are over analyzing the whole situation. Just like the hitter who takes a called strike 3 right over the heart of the plate. Paralysis by ( over) analysis !

  23. kekkil says:

    There is no time left to gamble away a prospect to find a reliable closer. That being said , give Melancon the ball. He’s earned it.He’s got a variety of pitches. If he fails then go with Wilson or Black

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