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Pirates notebook: Pirates' Grilli expected to be placed on 15-day DL

| Friday, April 25, 2014, 6:18 p.m.

ST. LOUIS — Pirates closer Jason Grilli has not pitched since Sunday due to a sore left oblique and is expected to go on the 15-day disabled list Saturday.

On Friday, the club attempted to put Grilli on the DL retroactive to Monday and recall Jared Hughes from Triple-A Indianapolis. But that move was voided by MLB because Hughes already was on the active roster Monday in place of injured starter Wandy Rodriguez.

Hughes went back to Indy on Thursday, when Brandon Cumpton was called up to take Rodriguez's spot in the rotation.

When Grilli goes on the DL, the Pirates must call up someone other than Hughes or backdate the move no further than Thursday.

Manager Clint Hurdle said Mark Melancon will close in Grilli's absence. Melancon filled that role last year, when Grilli missed six weeks due to a flexor strain.

Grilli, 37, doesn't expect the oblique injury to keep him down for long.

“If my arm last year was a 10 (on a severity scale), this is a 2,” Grilli said. “It's a long season and you want to be precautionary. I'm only going to hurt myself and the team if I can't be 100 percent.”

Although Grilli has a long injury history, this is the first time he's been sidelined by an oblique. He said the injury has bothered him “for a few days,” but there wasn't one particular moment or pitch to cause the injury.

“It's probably a progressive thing,” Grilli said.

When asked if his oblique bothered him last weekend, when he blew back-to-back save chances, Grilli paused for a long moment before answering.

“I guess you could say that,” he said. “It doesn't matter how it happened. It's happened. I'm just going to try to get healthy and be accountable for being ready the next time I get the ball.”

Grilli is averaging 7.88 strikeouts per nine innings, a significant drop from last season's 13.32 rate. His walk rate per nine innings has risen from 2.34 last year to 4.50.

According to Fangraphs, Grilli's line-drive percentage is up a couple of ticks to 27.3, an indication batters are making solid contact more often against him. Also, 20 percent of the fly balls he's allowed have gone for home runs. Last year, only 8.5 percent of his fly balls were homers.

More surgery for McPherson

Minor league pitcher Kyle McPherson's latest setback will cost him the season.

McPherson had surgery Wednesday to repair a fractured right medial epicondyle, the spot in the elbow where wrist flexors attach to one main tendon. Dr. James Andrews performed the operation.

According to the Pirates, McPherson is expected to return to competition in spring training 2015.

A right-hander, McPherson, 26, had Tommy John surgery July 10.

Transfer rule redux

MLB scrapped its revised version of the transfer rule and went back to ruling that a ball in the glove will be deemed a catch, even if the fielder drops it as he tries to transfer the ball to his throwing hand.

“I think it is (a good move),” Hurdle said. “I'm of the mindset that if something's not working, it needs to be fixed, and the right time to fix it is now. It's going to make the umpire's call easier. And it will serve the initial purpose of helping to keep guys away from injury.”

Welcome back

Friday was the Pirates' first game at Busch Stadium since they lost Game 5 of the 2013 NL Division Series.

Hurdle said he didn't think much about that until Friday morning, when a waitress at a St. Louis restaurant recognized him.

It was the same waitress who served him last October.

“She said, ‘I haven't waited on you since ...' and she stopped,” Hurdle said, grinning. “I said, ‘Since when? Since Game 5?' When she said yes, I said, ‘It's all good. This is game one — game one of this series.”

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

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