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Biertempfel: Grilli's tells readers 'don't ever give up' in new book

| Saturday, May 3, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates closer Jason Grilli pitches against the Brewers on Saturday, April 19, 2014, at PNC Park.

Jason Grilli has a lot of bad memories that involve the visitor's clubhouse at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

During the 2006 World Series, when Grilli pitched for the Detroit Tigers, he was stationed in a locker near a corner on the left side of a room, tucked away behind a pillar. The St. Louis Cardinals beat the Tigers in five games.

Last October, Grilli stowed his gear in that same stall during the NL Division Series. The Cardinals eliminated the Pirates in five games.

After Game 5, Grilli stood in front of his locker, looked around the quiet room and muttered, “I hate this clubhouse.”

Last week, Grilli was back at Busch for the first time this season. Same clubhouse, same locker. Another setback.

The Cardinals ended up winning two of the three games, both times by shutout. Before the middle game of the series, Grilli was placed on the disabled list with a strained left oblique. I sought out Grilli, poking my head around that inconveniently placed pillar, and found him surprisingly upbeat.

“It's a little different feeling in April than it is in October,” Grilli said. “This is not a bad finish. It's just a pit stop.”

A lot of people expect the road to the World Series this year will again go through St. Louis. If so, Grilli would have no problem walking into that clubhouse once again.

“I'd love to be back here, doing the same thing, regardless of how it turned out,” Grilli said. “Some people would give their right arm to have a chance to play again and lose than never have that experience at all.”

Since making his big league debut 14 years ago, Grilli, 37, has packed a lot of experiences into his career. He's played for a half-dozen teams. He's pitched on the game's biggest stage, been on an All-Star team and hit a home run in the big leagues. He's worked as a starter, middle reliever and closer.

As he went through rehab after knee surgery in 2010, Grilli kept a sort of journal on his BlackBerry. It was a way to vent and his source of inspiration during some hard times.

About a year ago, he was reading through his notes and wondered if the would make a good book. On May 22, “Just My Game,” which Grilli co-wrote, will hit bookstore shelves.

Readers who expect Grilli to dish dirt on other players will be disappointed.

“I'm not doing a Jose Canseco tell-all thing,” Grilli said. “It's a letter to my boys, encouragement to my sons. It's my story about me, but it's also about we.”

During spring training, Grilli pored over galley proofs of his book. He scratched out mistakes and made some additions as he rushed to meet the publisher's deadline.

“It was a little nerve-racking,” said the guy who has stared down Albert Pujols, Mike Trout, Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder. “I didn't think I'd be putting it together while I was playing.”

After the book is released, Grilli will do a round of promotional meet-and-greets around Pittsburgh.

“I'm a little nervous,” Grilli admitted. “I'd like everybody who reads it to get something out of it, even if it's only laughing at the old photos of me in the book. That's OK; they can laugh. I can laugh at myself, too.”

Yet Grilli also believes there's something important to be gained from his words.

“My message is, don't ever give up.”

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

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