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Pirates place Grilli, Martin on disabled list

| Saturday, April 26, 2014, 1:48 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates closer Jason Grilli walks back to the mound after allowing a game-tying homer to the Brewers' Ryan Braun in the ninth inning Sunday, April 20, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates catcher Russell Martin works behind the plate against the Brewers on Thursday, April 17, 2014, at PNC Park.

ST. LOUIS — Catcher Russell Martin needs more than a little bit of rest to recover from a strained left hamstring, so the Pirates on Saturday placed him on the 15-day disabled list.

The injury has bothered Martin for a while. He tried to play through it then was held out of the lineup Wednesday and Thursday.

Martin started Friday night's game against the St. Louis Cardinals but had to be replaced by Chris Stewart in the bottom of the sixth inning.

“We all realized last night a couple of days off is not enough,” manager Clint Hurdle said Saturday. “Now we can focus on the rehab.”

A news release from the team lists the hamstring as Martin's injury. However, Hurdle said Martin complained of pain in his hip immediately after leaving the game.

That's why Martin returned to Pittsburgh for more tests, including an MRI exam, to determine the nature and extent of his injury.

“He knows this is his best opportunity for him to get well,” Hurdle said.

Reliever Jared Hughes was recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis to fill Martin's spot on the 25-man roster. Tony Sanchez, who also was called up Saturday when closer Jason Grilli went on the 15-day DL, will be the backup catcher until Martin returns.

Sanchez was on the Opening Day roster, then was sent to Indy on April 19 when Stewart (knee surgery) was activated. Hughes was brought up Monday when left-hander Wandy Rodriguez went on the DL and was sent back to Indy on Thursday when Brandon Cumpton came up to take Rodriguez's spot in the rotation.

Bullpen shuffled

Right-hander Mark Melancon will be the de facto closer until Grilli returns.

Melancon has 37 career saves, including 20 with the Houston Astros in 2011. Last season, Melancon notched 14 of his 16 saves after Grilli went down with a flexor tendon strain.

Tony Watson will get first crack at filling the setup role. Through Friday, Melancon and the Cardinals' Kevin Siegrist led the National League with seven holds each. Watson, a lefty, was tied for fifth with four holds.

“Watson can pitch the eighth inning against anybody, right- or left-handed,” Hurdle said. “He's already done it more than a handful of times. And he's pitched the seventh inning against the meat of the order for a year and a half.”

Hurdle said right-hander Bryan Morris and left-hander Justin Wilson also have the stuff to pitch in the eighth inning.

See you soon?

Because his DL move was retroactive to Monday, Grilli will be eligible to come off the DL on May 6.

“I think I probably needed just a few more days (of rest),” Grilli said. “But there is no ‘few days' DL. Fortunately, these past five days count toward the time that I'm on the DL. That's the positive of it.”

Grilli did some light throwing on flat ground Friday before management opted to deactivate him. Oblique injuries can be tricky and long lasting, but Grilli remains optimistic about making a rapid recovery.

“Time will tell,” Hurdle said.

According to Fangraphs, Grilli's average fastball velocity is 92.5 mph this season. That's down slightly from last season (93.3 mph) and 2012 (93.6 mph), although Grilli disputed that notion.

“My velocity has been the same,” he insisted.

Still, Grilli has not used his fastball as in recent seasons. In 2012, fastballs accounted for 72 percent of his repertoire. This year, he's thrown fastballs 64 percent of the time. Grilli even is mixing in changeups (3.8 percent), a pitch he had all but scrapped since 2009.

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

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