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Pirates cut ties with veteran left-hander Locke

| Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016, 7:03 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Jeff Locke throws in relief against the Mariners on Tuesday, July 26, 2016, at PNC Park.

The Pirates on Tuesday cut ties with veteran pitcher Jeff Locke, designating the left-hander for assignment to clear a roster spot for minor league pitcher Lisalverto Bonilla.

Locke, 29, is in his second year of salary arbitration eligibility. MLBTradeRumors.com projected he could make $4.2 million next season, which made it likely that Locke would have been non-tendered at Friday's deadline had he not been DFA'd.

“When the player starts making real money, you have to start looking for real production,” general manager Neal Huntington said. “Jeff worked hard and gave us some really good starts, probably more than he was given credit for. But, the challenge for him was consistency.”

Although he was an All-Star in 2013, the past three seasons were difficult for Locke. He went 35-38 with a 4.41 ERA over his six-year career with the Pirates.

This past season, Locke was 9-8 with a 5.44 ERA and a 1.53 WHIP.

Locke opened the 2016 season in the starting rotation and lost three of his first four decisions. He pitched twice out of the bullpen in July, then made his final start on Aug. 3.

Over the final nine weeks of the season, Locke made just nine appearances, all as a reliever.

Bonilla, 26, spent this past season in the Los Angeles Dodgers' system. The right-hander went a combined 5-7 with two saves, a 1.34 WHIP and a 3.97 ERA in Double-A and Triple-A.

In 2014, Bonilla pitched in five games (three starts) for the Texas Rangers and went 3-0 with a 3.05 ERA. He missed the entire 2015 season because of a shoulder impingement and reconstructive elbow surgery.

Bonilla throws his fastball in the low-90s and gets a lot of ground balls with his plus changeup and slider.

Huntington said Bonilla will be given a chance to compete for a bullpen job during spring training. Bonilla has a minor league option left, so he could be sent to Triple-A Indianapolis.

“We'll develop him as a reliever, but we also have interest in him as a starter if we have that need,” Huntington said.

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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