UPDATE (4:30 p.m.) - As reported by Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Pirates beat reporter Rob Biertempfel, Jason Grilli returned to Pittsburgh for an MRI on Tuesday afternoon and will be placed on the 15-day disabled list.
Biertempfel tweeted that Bucs GM Neal Huntington was told Grilli would be out of action for at least 7-10 days, so the call was made to place him on the DL. According to Root Sports Pittsburgh’s Robbie Incmikoski, Mark Melancon will take over Grilli’s ninth-inning role.
Grilli was replaced on the Pirates’ 25-man roster by 25-year-old righthanded reliever Victor Black, a supplemental-round pick in 2009. A native Texan, Black had spent his entire season with Triple-A Indianapolis, where he had a 2.31 ERA and 0.94 WHIP in 35 innings. His next major-league pitch will be his first.
Also, second baseman Neil Walker (strained oblique) was activated from the DL, so utilityman Brandon Inge was designated for assignment to clear roster space. Inge, 36, appeared in 50 games for the Pirates at five positions, but had a .181/.204/.238 (AVG/OBP/SLG) line in 105 trips to the plate.
Walker, who was eligible to come off the DL on Monday, will bat seventh in Tuesday night’s matchup with the Nationals in Washington. Jordy Mercer bats eighth and returns to shortstop after manning the position in Walker’s absence; Clint Barmes will come off the bench.
Pittsburgh Pirates all-star closer Jason Grilli departed Monday night’s game against the Washington Nationals with discomfort in his right forearm. Pain in that area is often an indicator of damage to the elbow, so it was no surprise when the Bucs’ clubhouse was somber after winning the series opener 6-5. Along with Mark Melancon, the 36-year-old Grilli has been a major contributor to the Pirates’ lockdown bullpen.
The Pirates medical staff said they would inspect Grilli’s throwing arm Tuesday, seeking a reason for the twinge that has aroused concern. While those tests have not yet returned any results, team broadcaster Greg Brown provided a hint as to how long the Bucs might be without their back-end anchor.
Appearing on TribLive Radio with Ken Laird and Guy Junker on Tuesday morning, Brown said Grilli was feeling better but that his arm would “need a lot of rest.” Brown also relayed to Laird and Junker that Grilli said he might be out of game action at least a month:
Greg Brown admitted he was just speculating, but based on his talk w/ Grilli is thinking September return best case scenario #Pirates
— Ken Laird (@Ken_Laird) July 23, 2013
If Grilli is sidelined for that long, it might actually be a blessing. The 6-foot-4 hard-throwing righty had Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow in 2002, repairing a tear in the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL). It traditionally takes 12 to 16 months for a pitcher to fully recover from such a procedure.
Rehab is the avenue being taken by Pirates starter Wandy Rodriguez, who hasn’t thrown since June 5 because of similar forearm “tightness.” General manager Neal Huntington said on his Sunday radio show that he’s optimistic in Rodriguez’ return this season, although the 34-year-old lefthander isn’t close to beginning a minor-league rehab stint.
Certainly every case is different, so we wait to see if Grilli will be on the shelf for awhile. In the meantime, Melancon is the most likely candidate to take Grilli’s ninth-inning role, with Justin Wilson and Tony Watson also serving as internal options.