Pirates notebook: Locke was thinking of pitching complete game

Rob Biertempfel
| Saturday, June 15, 2013, 6:36 p.m.

Pirates left-hander Jeff Locke was certain he could go the distance Friday against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

“It was the first time in my life I thought I was going to throw a complete game,” Locke said. “Even all those years in the minors, never was there another game where ... I'm not going to say my pitch efficiency was so good, but they hit the ball right at people and that makes it easy.”

Locke needed only 75 pitches to navigate seven scoreless innings, but he never threw a 76th pitch. Manager Clint Hurdle had Mark Melancon pitch the eighth inning and closer Jason Grilli work the ninth.

“If you don't want to keep going, what kind of guy are you?” Locke said. “I want to keep going all the time. But, Clint made the move, and I'm always going to respect that.”

It was Melancon's first outing in a week. Hurdle said he “hit the air brakes” after Melancon got a heavy workload over the first two months of the season. After the layoff, Melancon needed to get back in action.

Hurdle also was mindful of Locke's previous outing against the Chicago Cubs in which he issued seven walks in 5 23 innings.

“I make a decision I can sleep with,” Hurdle said. “If the game gets away from us (with Melancon in), I can sleep with that. But, leaving Jeff out there and then trying to figure out when to get him out (if things go bad), I can't sleep with that one.”

Before the game, Hurdle targeted six-plus innings for Locke.

“Now that he's gotten through seven twice,” Hurdle said, “the next step is to give him the opportunity to get through eight.”

Morton adds zip

Charlie Morton admitted he glanced over his shoulder at the small, side scoreboards a few times Thursday during his comeback start from Tommy John surgery.

The boards down the first- and third-base lines flashed his peak fastball velocity at 96 mph, a couple of ticks faster than it was before his surgery.

But Morton didn't care about how fast his four-seam fastball was moving. He was wondering how his curveball and sinker were doing.

“I like looking at the movement more so than the velocity,” Morton said.

“I'm not sure how accurate (the scoreboard) is. But I'm more interested in the horizontal and vertical movement than the velocity.”

Morton got five strikeouts, three of which came on curves. He used his sinker to induce six groundball outs. But he also hit two batters with curveballs.

“For how many curves I threw, it was pretty good,” Morton said. “The action on the pitch was good, and the location was good. And it will get better. But it's so hard to determine where it's going to be sometimes.”

In 2011, Morton reworked his delivery, which caused his four-seamer's velocity to dip.

That's not a big deal, though, because the goal is to get good sink with his two-seamer and baffle hitters with the curve.

“I can't tell you if I've ever seen him hit 95 or 96 before,” Hurdle said. “Sometimes it's kind of crazy how that surgery works out where some guys get a couple extra miles per hour when they come back.”

Around the horn

If outfielder Starling Marte (strained oblique) remains sidelined through the weekend, he will be placed on the disabled listed before the Pirates open a four-game series Monday against the Reds in Cincinnati. ... Lefty Wandy Rodriguez (forearm tightness) threw 15 pitches, all fastballs, in a bullpen session Saturday. ... The ripple effects of righty Brandon Cumpton making his big league debut Saturday: right-hander Stolmy Pimentel was promoted to Triple-A Indianapolis, and righty Nick Kingham was sent up to Double-A Altoona. ... The Pirates are in a stretch of facing four Cy Young Award winners: Clayton Kershaw (NL, 2011), Tim Lincecum (NL, 2008-09), Zack Greinke (AL, 2009) and Barry Zito (AL, 2002) — in a six-day span.

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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