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Pirates notebook: Hurdle returns Grilli to closer role; Melancon will set up in 8th

| Monday, Sept. 23, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Manager Clint Hurdle is returning to the bullpen arrangement that made the Pirates' pen the best in baseball during the first half of the season. Hurdle said Monday that Jason Grilli will be the closer going forward, Mark Melancon will be used in the eighth inning with Justin Wilson and Tony Watson again employed as late-game situational lefties. Grilli recorded his first save Saturday since returning from an elbow injury. His velocity is a tick down, but his slider is sharp enough to miss bats. “It's basically restructured the way it was for the first three-and-a-half months of the season before Grilli's injury,” Hurdle said. Grilli told the Tribune-Review on Friday that “It's easier to do your job and be successful when you know what that job is.” Melancon initially pitched well as the team's interim closer but has struggled in recent weeks, blowing two saves in three days last week. The Pirates are 76-3 when leading after eight innings this season, but two of those losses came last week.

Starting catcher Russell Martin returned to the lineup Monday. He was pulled from Sunday's game with discomfort in his left knee and he was given back-to-back days of rest last week. Martin originally injured his knee in July. “He's good enough to play. He wants to play,” Hurdle said. ... Jose Tabata again started over Starling Marte in left field Monday. Marte (hand) is healthy enough to play. Hurdle is playing the hot bat.

—Travis Sawchik

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