Sep 17, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Jeff Locke (49) delivers a pitch against the San Diego Padres during the first inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Pirates: What To Expect From Jeff Locke In His MLB Return

The last year and a half has been quite the roller coaster ride for Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Jeff Locke.

The southpaw went from a breakout 2013 that saw him make his first All-Star team to a guy that was so bad in the second half of the season that he ultimately was demoted to the minors.

Feb 27, 2014; Tampa, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Jeff Locke (49) throws a pitch during the third inning against the New York Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Locke’s career took another turn in spring training when he didn’t make the Bucs’ Opening Day roster out of camp.

Now Locke gets a chance to right the ship when he takes the hill again Monday night at PNC Park against the San Francisco Giants.

The only question is what we should expect from Locke? The sad part is no one knows the answer to that question, likely not even Locke himself.

Locke injured his oblique muscle and could not compete for a starting job in the rotation in spring training. In four starts at Indianapolis, he had a 5.68 ERA in 19 innings. He has struck out 17 and walked five.

Locke was pulled after two innings in his most recent start Thursday night in anticipation of him starting today against the Giants.

What we do know is that Locke isn’t nearly as good as he was during the first half of the 2013 season, but we also know that he isn’t nearly as bad as he was during the second half of last season.

The best news coming from his minor-league stint is that Locke has walked only five, which is a great sign as the base on balls got him into trouble a lot last season.

His fastball has been in the 90-94 mph range and reports are that his breaking ball is a lot sharper.

I am one that has confidence in Locke and wouldn’t be surprised if he comes out and battles and turns in a respectable performance.

Although no matter what the results are, Locke likely isn’t pitching for a spot in the rotation going forward as Pirates’ general manager Neal  Huntington labeled his promotion as a “spot start.”

Even if Locke shines, Wandy Rodriguez will likely come off the DL in time to make his next start, providing his rehab start goes well.

Either way, Monday night is an opportunity for Locke to make a strong statement that he belongs in the MLB rotation. If he doesn’t take advantage of it, he may not get another shot anytime in the near future.

Tags: Jeff Locke Pittsburgh Pirates

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