The Pittsburgh Pirates are a disappointing 35-37 in their first 72 games, as they look to build on an impressive 2013 campaign. However, their incumbent closer, Jason Grilli, has been less than spectacular in his role, and on Friday, manager Clint Hurdle saw fit to remove him from ninth-inning duty in favor of Mark Melancon.
Pirates Jason Grilli is being moved out of the closer role for now, said Mgr. Clint Hurdle. He’ll get opportunities while club is behind.
— Jenn Menendez (@JennMenendez) June 20, 2014
The 37-year-old Grilli has battled significant injury issues in the recent past, and those issues kept him off the active roster to begin the 2014 campaign. Since returning, though, Grilli has struggled mightily, putting together a 4.34 ERA (5.82 FIP, 4.90 xFIP) in 18.2 innings. Control has been the biggest issue for the hard throwing right-hander, as he has walked 4.82 batters per 9 innings (up from just 2.34 in 2013), and he simply can’t succeed with that type of command problem.
Because of his age, there is a real possibility that Grilli has simply plateaued, but in actuality, Melancon has been the better pitcher and probably should have been in the job already. The 29-year-old Melancon was unhittable in 2013 on the way to a 1.39 ERA with 16 saves in 72 appearances, and he has followed that up with a sparkling 1.89 ERA in 33.1 innings this year. The “closer role” has its own limitations, but if Pittsburgh seeks to place the best pitcher in the position, Melancon is clearly their man.
Hurdle was quick to say that the demotion was “for now”, but if Melancon keeps up his current level, it will be his job for the foreseeable future.