Everyone knows the story of Jason Grilli; he finally found success at the MLB level last season at age 35 with the Pittsburgh Pirates after a career full of disappointment and injuries. After a very good first half to the season, Grilli went on the disabled list two months ago. He has recently returned to the Pirates’ bullpen, but wasn’t initially named closer, because Mark Melancon had been doing a terrific job in the ninth inning.
After two rough outings for Melancon, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle decided to give the closer position back to Grilli. Hurdle must not have seen what everyone else had been seeing from Grilli since his return. In his six innings since coming off of the disabled list, Grilli has allowed nine hits and two walks, but he has struck out eight. ERA isn’t a great statistic for relief pitchers, but his ERA is 6.00 since his return, for what it’s worth.
As far as how good his pitches have been since returning, Grilli’s slurve has been just as good as it was before his injury. It is still a dominant pitch that gets a ton of swings-and-misses. His fastball, however, is down a few mph. Before his injury, he was sitting at 93-95 consistently, now he is only hitting 91-93. His fastball had a ton of late life to it pre-injury, but it just isn’t the same now. He is still getting strikeouts, but the majority of them are coming with his breaking pitch. If the Pirates are going to feel comfortable using Grilli as closer again, he is going to need to get his velocity back on his fastball.