CINCINNATI -- When he walked past the airport newsstand, Jason Grilli couldn't help but buy a copy of Sports Illustrated with his picture on the cover.
But he didn't hold onto it for long.
On his flight back from the All-Star Game, the Pirates closer found someone who might appreciate his copy of the magazine even more. Grilli signed the magazine and gave it to a young child that was sitting near his family.
The boy was born with a hole in his heart and was scheduled to receive a lung transplant soon.
"Why not give it to that kid?" Grilli said. "First person to give it to, right? Just trying to make his day."
Pirates vs. Cincinnati Reds, 4:05 p.m., Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati. Key matchup: Burnett vs. Jay Bruce, 3 for 18 with six strikeouts and three RBIs in his career against Burnett.
- TV, Radio:
WPGH, KDKA-FM (93.7)
Pirates: RHP A.J. Burnett (4-6, 3.06 ERA)
Reds:RHP Mat Latos (8-3, 3.53)
- Hidden stat:
The Pirates finished the first half of the season with a major league-leading 3.07 team ERA. The previous time they led the league in team ERA at the All-Star break was 1962 (3.45), according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
In the issue that hit newsstands this week, Grilli became the first Pirates player featured on the Sports Illustrated cover since Barry Bonds in May 1992.
"It's surreal," he said. "I guess the fruits of my labor, I can't even still enjoy them until I get what I want. I'm still trying to get there. That's the ultimate prize. It's not the [World Baseball Classic], it's not the All-Star Game, it's not an All-Star appearance. It's a World Series ring."
But Grilli, who has tried to deflect as much attention as possible from his success this season, indicated he was still a bit uncomfortable being singled out. He said he felt the same way as a high school player who made the front page of the sports section in Syracuse, N.Y., and also struggled as a highly scouted collegiate pitcher when some of his teammates went unnoticed.
"I'm there in large part because of everybody in here," Grilli said of the magazine. "That's really what it boils down to. It's taken everybody to get to this point. I'm just amazed at whatever this all amounted to, how I got here."
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, who appeared on Sports Illustrated's cover in 1978, did not realize one of his own players had earned the distinction until he saw the magazine Thursday in Pittsburgh International Airport.
"There's no jinx," he said. "I don't believe in it. There are plenty of people on the cover that have gone on to do wonderful things."
Grilli's cover made Hurdle immediately think of Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla., where old photos of past Pirates greats adorn the walls.
"All the pictures are black and white," he said. "There are a few color pictures in the cafeteria, and there are some SI covers in the cafeteria. But I said one of the goals this year is to put some color on the walls. And this SI cover is color -- it's color on the walls."
Walker starts rehab
Neil Walker (oblique) began a rehabilitation assignment Friday with Class AAA Indianapolis. Walker, placed on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to July 7, is scheduled to play two more games with Indianapolis before the Pirates evaluate his condition.
He is scheduled to play seven innings today and nine innings Sunday. He could return to the active roster as soon as Monday, the first day he is eligible to come off the disabled list.
More national TV exposure
The Pirates-Cardinals game July 31 at PNC Park will be broadcast on ESPN, the network announced. The game also will be broadcast locally by Root Sports.
It will be the second Pirates game on ESPN this season after the Pirates' 5-0 victory against the Oakland Athletics was shown last week.
The Cardinals and Pirates entered the All-Star break first and second, respectively, in the National League Central Division. They will play five games in four days in that series.
Michael Sanserino: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1722 and Twitter @msanserino.