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Grilli's fastball proving deceptively quick

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at CARDINALS2:15 p.m., Sunday, Busch Stadium, St. Louis

TV/radio: Root/KDKA-FM (93.7), WCNS-AM (1480), WJPA-AM (1450), XM 183

Probable pitchers: LHP Erik Bedard (4-8, 4.27) vs. Cardinals RHP Jake Westbrook (6-6, 3.77)

7:05 p.m. Monday: Astros RHP Jordan Lyles (2-4, 4.59) vs. Pirates RHP James McDonald (7-3, 2.44)

7:05 p.m. Tuesday: Astros RHP Lucas Harrell (7-6, 4.33) vs. Pirates RHP A.J. Burnett (9-2, 3.31)

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'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Saturday, June 30, 2012, 5:04 p.m.

What makes Jason Grilli's fastball so effective? Short arms and strong legs.

According to Fangraphs, Grilli throws his fastball two-thirds of the time with an average velocity of 93.8 mph. The Pirates' setup man entered Saturday's action tied for sixth among major league relievers with 48 strikeouts.

“It's sneaky,” catcher Rod Barajas said. “You see a lot of guys throw 94 to 95 mph, and hitters are still on it. It's different with him. It's like he short-arms it, so it's got that little bit of extra deception. It's moving 94 to 95 mph, but it makes it appear like it's 96 to 97 mph. With short-arm guys, it seems like those balls get on you just a little bit quicker.”

Grilli has increased his velocity by almost 2 mph over the past couple of years. Hurdle believes it's a by-product of the rehab Grilli had after knee surgery in 2010.

“He's using his legs now more than he ever did before,” Hurdle said. “He added strength, a better core, a better foundation. If you talk to old-school pitchers like Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan — I was fortunate to spend time with both of them — one of the biggest things they talked about was having the leg strength, the ability to drop and drive off the mound.”

Minor matters

Altoona reliever Vic Black was added to the Double-A Eastern League All-Star roster. He will join Altoona teammates Ramon Cabrera, Brandon Cumpton and Brock Holt in the July 11 game.

Plans for Lincoln

After throwing two innings Friday, reliever Brad Lincoln was not available to pitch Saturday and won't be again Sunday. Hurdle said the plan is to avoid pitching Lincoln, who also has been used as a spot starter, on consecutive days.

“Once we get him out there, if it's a two-inning (outing), we'll see if we can run him to three so he stays stretched out,” Hurdle said. “With two innings (Friday), we'd be asking too much of him to come back (Saturday or) Sunday. He's not a computer chip; he's a human being. The transitions have been a lot for him this year, so we're trying to keep it real simple in how we use him.”

Zalewski won't sign

Zarley Zalewski, the Pirates' 40th-round draft pick, has decided to play college baseball rather than sign with the team.

A switch-hitting shortstop out of Valley High School in New Kensington, Zalewski will honor his scholarship to Kent State, one of this year's College World Series participants.

Zalewski was the WPIAL Baseball Coaches Association Class AAA Player of the Year this past season after hitting .574 with eight home runs, 25 runs and 36 RBI in 18 games.

Staff writer Bill Beckner Jr. contributed.Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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