Jason Grilli was a major contributor to the Pittsburgh Pirates success last season, but he is off to a rough start this year. On Friday manager Clint Hurdle announced that Mark Melancon would take over Grilli’s role as a closer. The 37-year-old has blown four save opportunities this year.
On Thursday afternoon Grilli served up a solo home run to Devin Mesoraco to blow the save. It was the fourth run he’s allowed in his last 2 2/3 innings.
Last season the right-hander dominated with a 2.70 ERA and a 1.97 FIP, but this season he has a 4.34 ERA and a 5.83 ERA in the closer role.
Since losing the closing role, Grilli has made one appearance. He pitched a scoreless eighth inning in the series opener at Wrigley Field. He struck out the first two batters, then walked John Baker and gave up a single to Junior Lake. Luis Valbuena flied out to right to end the inning.
For now, Hurdle said he will use Grilli when the Pirates are trailing or winning big.
Pitching coach Ray Searage believes the problem is mechanical and maybe adjustments can fix it. He helped Edinson Volquez get back on track this season, but this is a different scenario. Grilli never quite looked the same after returning from his arm injury last season. His strikeouts are down and walks are up.
Can Hurdle’s plan to remove Grilli from closer help him get back on track or is this a ship that has already sailed?
Grilli’s story is a feel good story and it makes it hard to root against the guy, but if he isn’t closing games, he doesn’t really fit in anywhere. He is not someone who can be used for long relief. With his recent struggles, it’s hard to throw him in a close game.
Hopefully Hurdle’s plan of taking the pressure off him will work and he can resume his role this season. His age and his recent injuries make this doubtful.
As the end of Grilli’s contract nears, it looks like his Pirates career may be ending, too.