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Former Pirates prospect Grossman now starting in center for Houston

| Friday, May 17, 2013, 6:48 p.m.
Pirates catcher Russell Martin (left) looks for the ball as the Astros' Robbie Grossman scores on a double steal and a bad throw by second baseman Neil Walker during the fifth inning Friday, May 17, 2013, at PNC Park.
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The Astros' Robbie Grossman (19) is congratulated by J.D. Martinez after scoring in the first inning against the Pirates on Friday, May 17, 2013, at PNC Park.

It's been three years since Pirates left-hander Jeff Locke played with Robbie Grossman in High-A Bradenton. But ask him what he remembers about his former teammate, and he can rattle off a few nuggets:

• He was a good switch-hitting talent who played right field and had a good arm.

• He was the type of outfielder who every pitcher loved to have in the lineup when he was on the mound.

“I remember one thing I always liked about him was he didn't care where the wall was,” Locke said. “As a pitcher you like guys like that who play with reckless abandon in the outfield. He'd run through a wall to catch a ball for you, and I'm sure he still would. ... He probably helped me with my promotion to Double-A that year.”

Grossman, who was part of the Wandy Rodriguez deal last July, and is batting leadoff for the Houston Astros. At the time of the trade, he was hitting .262 in Double-A Altoona and was ranked as the Pirates' eighth-best prospect by Baseball America. He was the Pirates' Minor League Player of the Year in 2011.

The Astros recalled the 23-year-old outfielder from Triple-A Oklahoma City on April 23 to take the spot of Justin Maxwell (broken hand), and Grossman made his major league debut the next day.

Despite Grossman playing only 19 games in Triple-A, Astros manager Bo Porter said earlier this week he will get the bulk of the playing time in center field rather than moving in and out of the lineup as he had been doing.

In his first 20 major league games, Grossman batted .205 with four doubles, three RBI, 10 walks, 22 strikeouts and an on-base percentage of .311. He stole two bases and was caught four times. He led off Friday's game with a double and scored on a sacrifice fly by Jason Castro.

Grossman, who grew up in the Houston area, said Friday before facing his former team that the adjustment has been good.

“Just getting more comfortable playing every day and just excited to keep playing,” he said. “For me, it's just going out there and playing hard every day, letting the chips fall where they fall and just have fun and try to win games.”

Grossman keeps in touch with Pirates left fielder Starling Marte, whos said Grossman is “like a brother.”

“When I first got called up, he called me and said congratulations,” Marte said. “That's important to me. He was my first friend when I came to the United States. To call me when I got called up impressed me.”

Karen Price is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach her at kprice@tribweb.com or via Twitter @KarenPrice_Trib.

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