Pirates place Grilli on 15-day DL, tab Melancon to close

Rob Biertempfel
| Tuesday, July 23, 2013, 5:09 p.m.

WASHINGTON — For the next couple of weeks, and possibly longer, closer Jason Grilli won't be able to punctuate Pirates victories with his trademark fist pump.

Grilli went on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday with a strained right forearm. He left the team that afternoon to return to Pittsburgh, where team doctors will determine the full nature and severity of his injury and begin to plot his recovery.

Grilli was injured while pitching Monday against the Washington Nationals. After throwing the first pitch to pinch-hitter Steve Lombardozzi, Grilli stepped off the mound, clearly in pain. After an athletic trainer briefly looked at his arm and elbow, Grilli left the game.

“The initial read was he was going to be down at least 10 days, so the DL was a no-brainer,” general manager Neal Huntington said. “But for us to speculate on anything else at this point would be purely that. He's optimistic, and we'll go from there.”

Right-handed reliever Vic Black was recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis and in uniform for Tuesday's game against the Nationals. Black went 1-2 with 15 saves, a 2.31 ERA and a 0.94 WHIP in 23 outings for Indy.

Mark Melancon will get first crack at closing games while Grilli is out. Melancon has 23 career saves — two this year, one last season with the Boston Red Sox and 20 in 2011 with the Houston Astros.

“I don't look at it as being any different than what I've been doing,” said Melancon, who leads the National League with 26 holds.

Grilli isn't afraid to show his emotions after nailing down a save. Melancon, however, is not the type to do something flashy, like a back flip off the mound.

“If I could do it, I probably would,” Melancon said with a laugh. “Being (low key) is just who I am. I'm not trying to create a personal show.”

Manager Clint Hurdle said he doesn't want to settle on one setup man. Right-handers Bryan Morris and Vin Mazzaro and lefties Tony Watson and Justin Wilson will share the duties in the eighth inning.

“While Jason's down, we'll just have to pick each other up, like we have done all year,” Watson said. “We've got confidence in every arm down there. The great thing is everybody has pitched in different roles, so their experience factor is good. We'll keep grinding and find a way.”

Grilli's absence could affect what the Pirates do — or opt not to do — at the trade deadline. They might pursue bullpen help, but the market is thin, and teams that think the Pirates could be desperate for help are likely to hike their asking prices.

A scout from a National League club was at Monday's game, checking out the Pirates' middle relievers. With Grilli out, the Pirates have to be more cautious about including a reliever such as Wilson or Watson in a trade package.

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

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