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Pirates notebook: Grilli doesn't forget McDonald taking him deep

| Saturday, March 23, 2013, 5:42 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates closer Jason Grilli pitches against the Braves on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013, at McKechnie Field in Bradenton, Fla.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates starting pitcher A.J. Burnett talks with closer Jason Grilli during spring training at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla.
Christopher Horner
Pirates closer Jason Grilli throws a bullpen session at Pirate City Thursday Feb. 14, 2013, in Bradenton, Fla. Grilli said his entrance song during games will be one by the band Pearl Jam. Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Pitchers have long memories.

Pirates closer Jason Grilli vividly recalls the only time he faced new teammate John McDonald. In the eighth inning of a 5-4 Pirates win April 17, McDonald whacked a 3-2 pitch from Grilli over the right-field wall at Chase Field.

It was one of six homers last season by McDonald, who's gone deep just 27 times in his 14-year career.

As McDonald was unpacking his gear in the clubhouse Friday morning — his first day with the club after being traded to the Pirates on Wednesday — Grilli walked by. He paused when he recognized McDonald.

“He took me deep last year,” Grilli announced, grinning. “We got a power stick for the bench!”

McDonald, who was holding court with reporters, laughed.

“Aw, I won't talk about that (homer) with these guys,” McDonald said.

McDonald chuckled when someone mentioned pitchers have a way of remembering who took them deep.

“I don't hit a lot of them, so I won't forget, either,” he said.

Hawpe released

Saturday morning, Brad Hawpe was given his unconditional release. Hawpe batted .139 (5 for 36) with one homer, six RBI and a .447 OPS in 16 games. He has not played in the majors since 2011.

“The game has gotten faster in the last couple of years, and I just haven't been able to catch up yet,” Hawpe said.

Locke faces Sox

Jeff Locke's outing Saturday against the Boston Red Sox — 4 innings, three runs (two earned), seven hits — probably didn't improve his chances of winning a rotation spot.

“He's grown up a little bit (but) there's still more that he has to learn,” pitching coach Ray Searage said.

Six of the first 10 batters Locke faced reached base, including three on hard-hit balls that caromed off JetBlue Park's Green Monster. In six games (five starts), the lefty has a 3.38 ERA and a 1.34 WHIP.

“I feel pretty happy with my outings this spring,” Locke said. “You always want to do better, but I guess I feel pretty good. I don't have anything to say about the decisions that are going to be made next week because it's not my call.”

Searage seemed to dispel the idea that Locke could make the team in the bullpen if he doesn't crack the rotation.

“It's a feather in his cap that he can do both,” Searage said. “But what we're looking for is depth in the rotation. We need that depth.”

Growing up in North Conway, N.H., Locke was a Red Sox season ticket-holder.

“It's a lot of fun to go from watching them on the couch to facing them in a game,” he said.

Locke's favorite pitcher is Pedro Martinez. Locke remembers being at the All-Star Game in 1999 when Martinez whiffed the first six batters he faced.

“It was the coolest thing I'd ever seen in my life,” Locke said. “I was 12 years old. I'll never forget it.”

Planet of the aches

Andrew McCutchen was scratched from the lineup Saturday because of flu-like symptoms. ... Brandon Inge (shoulder), still sore after being hit by a pitch nearly two weeks ago, did not make the trip to Fort Myers on Saturday. He also is not listed among the available players for the game Sunday against the Orioles at McKechnie Field. ... Jeff Karstens (biceps tendinitis) will make his first Grapefruit League appearance Sunday. ... Francisco Liriano (broken right arm) will toss his third bullpen session Sunday and plans to use all his pitches. Previously, he'd been limited to fastballs and changeups.

Pirates vs. Curve

The Pirates have not yet announced which pitchers will start the exhibition game Saturday in Altoona against the Double-A Curve. However, Jameson Taillon, who'll open the season with Altoona, is not lined up to pitch in that game. Donnie Iris will sing the National Anthem. The game will be televised by Fox 8 in the Altoona area and will be broadcast on KDKA-FM (93.7) in Pittsburgh.

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