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Pirates notebook: Grilli returns from DL, but not as closer

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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates closer Jason Grilli pitches during the ninth inning against the Brewers on Saturday, June 29, 2013, at PNC Park.

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Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013, 4:54 p.m.

MILWAUKEE — The Pirates activated Jason Grilli from the disabled list Tuesday, but he will not immediately return to the closer role.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said Grilli will throw several times in low-stress relief situations before the club considers moving Grilli back to ninth-inning duty. Hurdle wants Grilli to return to closing at some point this month.

“We'll use him at least couple times in non-leverage situations to see how he fares, how he feels,” Hurdle said. “Our eyes will tell us what to do with him after that. ... We eventually plan on transitioning (Grilli) back to the closer's role.”

Grilli and the Pirates decided he didn't need to make a third rehab appearance Wednesday in Durham for Triple-A Indianapolis, which was the original plan. Grilli made appearances for Double-A Altoona on Saturday and Monday. He threw two scoreless innings and struck out four.

“If I want to get out big league hitters, I have to face them,” Grilli said. “I think I showed my arm is where it needs to be, and there's not much to prove for myself. I'm being honest with them. This is not a selfish move on my part. The arm strength has been there.”

Mark Melancon, who has 10 saves in Grilli's absence, will remain the closer temporarily. Grilli has not pitched in a major league game since straining his elbow July 22 in Washington.

“I'm OK with that,” said Grilli of not immediately returning as closer. “I'm not here to interrupt. Any one of these guys can close. Melancon is doing a (heck) of a job.”

The Pirates also recalled reliever Jared Hughes, catcher Tony Sanchez and outfielder Andrew Lambo.

Locke rejoins rotation

Jeff Locke will rejoin the Pirates' rotation Saturday in St. Louis. He is expected to match up against Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright. Locke, who has struggled in the second half after making a trip to the All-Star Game, had his last start skipped. He was briefly demoted to Double-A.

Locke has posted a 6.18 ERA in the second half of the season after a 2.15 ERA in the first half.

Hurdle announced A.J. Burnett will start the series opener Friday in St. Louis against Joe Kelly. Charlie Morton will match up against Cardinals rookie Michael Wacha on Sunday.

Locke said he doesn't have physical fatigue. He used the break to self-evaluate.

“You just kind of track back to see if you were doing anything differently?” Locke said. “Not just on the mound, but in between the (starts). Was I taking care of myself differently? Everything has been the same. I just got roughed up a little bit.”

Postseason schedule

If the Pirates advance to October, they know when they'll be playing.

Major League Baseball released its postseason schedule Tuesday.

The NL wild-card game will be played Oct. 1. Each NL Division Series will begin Oct. 3. The best-of-five series could run until Oct. 10.

The National League Championship Series will begin Oct. 11. Game 1 of the World Series is scheduled for Oct. 23.

The wild-card game and NLCS will be exclusively televised on TBS, along with the majority of Division Series games.

Travis Sawchik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @Sawchik_Trib.

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