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How does the Jason Grilli Injury Affect the Pirates?

by Photo of Kenneth Teape

How can the Pirates overcome the big blow of Grilli being placed on the 15-day DL Tuesday?

How does  the Jason Grilli Injury Affect the Pirates?

The Pittsburgh Pirates hopes of ending their two-decade long playoff drought and losing season streak took a significant blow Monday night. Closer Jason Grilli was placed on the 15-day DL with a right forearm strain after not being able to finish a ninth inning save opportunity last night.

The Pirates and their fans are holding their collective breath hoping that the injury does not end up as badly as it looked. Most often forearm injuries are related to issues with the elbow so they must be prepared for the worst. Grilli can be seen asking for the staff to come out of the bullpen after the pitch and was visibly not himself during the outing; he surrendered a walk and two hits, one of which was a homerun, but struck out two the outs he did get.

It would be a shame not only for the Pirates but for Grilli if he has major arm trouble. The 36-year old is experiencing his best season in the majors after a pretty underwhelming journeyman career. Grilli was seen leaving the hotel Tuesday with suitcase in hand, presumably going back to Pittsburgh for tests, Rob Biertempfel tweeted.

Replacing the NL saves leader is not easy to do but there are not many teams more equipped to do it than the Pirates. Mark Melancon, who has been setting up Grilli all season, is actually having just as good a season than Grilli (if not better). He looks past his woeful season in Boston in 2012 and he has experience closing games before with Houston in 2011. He would presumably have the first shot at closing games for however long Grilli is on the DL.

Rookie Justin Wilson will most likely be the next moved up in line. Wilson is dominating hitters this season to the tune of a 1.86 ERA and 0.98 WHIP. He has 46 strikeouts in 53.1 innings and will see a more prominent role with Melancon being moved to the ninth inning role. The Pirates also have more capable arms in the bullpen in Vin Mazzaro, who actually finished the game out when Grilli was hurt Monday night, and lefty Tony Watson. The Pirates strength all season has been their bullpen and it will be interesting to see if they can continue their stellar performances without their anchor at the end.

The Pirates were already in the market for another arm in the bullpen as they already led the majors in relief innings with 341 before Grilli went down. His injury now will only heighten the need for another arm in the bullpen. Some names to keep an eye on are Francisco Rodriguez of the Milwaukee Brewers, Kevin Gregg of the Chicago Cubs and Jesse Crain of the Chicago White Sox. It is not normally the Pirates MO to make moves at the deadline that may sacrifice future assets but they may need to change that stance if they are to stay in the NL Central Division race and break the streak. All signs point to the Pirates being able to persevere unlike past seasons but this will definitely be a big blow to overcome.

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