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Struggling Locke sent to Double-A Altoona

| Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013, 7:57 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Jeff Locke delivers to the plate during the first inning against the Marlins Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Jeff Locke delivers against the Brewers during the fifth inning Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013, at PNC Park.

Struggling left-hander Jeff Locke is out of the Pirates' starting rotation for at least one start.

Wednesday, Locke and catcher Tony Sanchez were optioned to Double-A Altoona to clear spots on the active roster for new arrivals Marlon Byrd and John Buck.

Because Altoona ends its season Monday, Locke and Sanchez will not have to wait the usual 10 days before being recalled to the majors. Both players will rejoin the Pirates on Tuesday.

“This move allows us to give Jeff a short break,” general manager Neal Huntington said in a prepared statement. Huntington did not indicate whether Locke will immediately rejoin the rotation when he returns.

Locke, an NL All-Star this year, had been slated to start Sunday against the Cardinals, but he will not pitch in a game for the Curve. He will work out and do side work in the bullpen.

The move was made shortly before Wednesday's game against the Brewers — after the Pirates clubhouse had closed to the media — so Locke was not available for comment.

In eight starts since the All-Star break, Locke is 1-2 with a 6.18 ERA and a 2.06 WHIP. He's unable to consistently find the right release point and is spraying pitches around the zone.

Sunday is the first day of expanded rosters, so the Pirates might opt to have a call-up — perhaps Kris Johnson or Stolmy Pimentel — pitch against the Cardinals. Top prospect Jameson Taillon is in line to start Sunday for Triple-A Indianapolis. Reliever Jeanmar Gomez also might be an option for the Pirates, though he's not likely to be stretched out beyond 50 pitches.

Although Locke will not be on the active roster by Saturday's deadline to set playoff rosters, he still could pitch in the postseason. Teams that have players on the major league disabled list — the Pirates have nine — are given flexibility to switch players for each round of the playoffs.

Sanchez took his temporary demotion in stride.

“This has been too great a season for me to let something small like this spoil it,” Sanchez said. “It's been a great ride so far.”

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

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