With all due respect (not much) to Ryan Braun, the biggest news out of the NL Central on Monday wasn’t that the Brewers will be without their former MVP. The biggest news was that the Pittsburgh Pirates might be without closer Jason Grilli for an extended period of time.
Potentially some very bad news for the Pirates: Closer Jason Grilli left Monday night’s game with a right arm injury. He threw a pitch with two outs in the ninth, then immediately called the trainer out to the mound.
The injury is being described as right forearm discomfort and Grilli is expected to undergo an MRI today. The immediacy of Grilli’s departure from the game and the reports that Grilli was hanging his head in the clubhouse afterward suggest that this is a potentially catastrophic injury to the all-star closer.
While it may sound innocent enough, a forearm issue is almost always a sign of an elbow problem and if that is the case, Grilli could be facing a second date with Tommy John surgery. Grilli had the procedure done once before in 2002 while pitching in the Marlins organization.
The list of pitchers that have made it back from a second Tommy John is short, but should it come to that, Grilli wouldn’t be the first. The former journeyman reliever found a home with the Pirates and established himself as a set-up man last season before signing a two-year, $6.75 million deal to stay with the Pirates this winter and assume closing duties.
With Grilli on the shelf and possibly lost for the year, the Pirates will turn to fellow all-star Mark Melancon, who has closing experience previously with the Astros.
Pittsburgh had already been seeking to improve the club through trade as the non-waiver deadline approaches at the end of the month. A late-inning reliever now gets added to the list. Just how high a priority it becomes will be determined by the results of that MRI that Grilli will have.