The Pittsburgh Pirates bullpen has been a major strength of the team all season and it just got even stronger.
After a couple of rehab outings, the Bucs announced on Tuesday they have activated All-Star closer Jason Grilli, who was on the disabled list since July 22 with a forearm injury.
But now that the Pirates have some “Grill Cheese” back in the Shark Tank, the only question to ask is if he should reclaim the closer role that he filled masterfully before going down with the injury?
That answer should be no. At least not right off the bat.
Going by the old adage of “If it aint broke, don’t fix it,” I see no reason why Pirates’ manager Clint Hurdle should remove Mark Melancon from the closer’s role, something Hurdle also seems reluctant to do and talk about.
“We’ll talk about that when he gets back,” Hurdle told Travis Sawchik of TribLive.com when asked about if Grilli would immediately been handed the closer job back. “We’re in a lot of different discussions now.”
Whoever the Pirates closer may be, I think it is wise for Hurdle let situation dictate who gets the ball in the ninth.
If it’s a one-run game it makes sense to continue to give Melancon the ball. However if the Pirates have a three-run lead, it may make a little sense to ease Grilli back in that way.
However there are very few other instances where not giving the ball to Melancon in the ninth inning should be an option.
Melancon and his 0.88 ERA on the season have been nothing short of spectacular since taking over for Grilli. In that span he has converted eight of nine save opportunities and has allowed exactly one earned run. His only blown save came as the result of Starling Marte’s dropped fly ball against the St. Louis Cardinals.
It’s not that Grilli couldn’t handle the job. Obviously converting 30 of 31 save opportunities with a 2.34 ERA before his injury says he can do the job just fine. It’s just that Melancon has been that good.
Before his injury the Bucs had one of the best weapons in baseball with Melancon setting up Grilli. Down the stretch they will still have that dominant weapon as they look for their first division title since 1992.
The roles should just be reversed.