Pirates closer vows a quick return from disabled list

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Jason Grilli had no new information Monday on the flexor strain in his right arm, but offered insight into the injury and how he felt leading up to it.

He said he felt "not like myself" in the ninth inning against the Washington Nationals July 22, when he left the game in pain, but knew he had avoided Tommy John ligament replacement surgery.

"It wasn't the area that was hurt," said Grilli, who had Tommy John surgery earlier in his career. "You're talking to a guy that knows his body pretty well. I wasn't concerned about that whatsoever."

Grilli went on the 15-day disabled list July 23. He will be re-evaluated next week, but the nature of the injury likely means four to eight weeks out of action.

Grilli's comments indicated that he was pitching through pain before leaving the game. He allowed a home run and a walk, but struck out two, in two-thirds of an inning.

"That wasn't how I've pitched all year," Grilli said. "You learn to play hurt in this game. I wasn't 100 percent that night but I was giving 100 percent of what I had that night.

"Luckily, I caught it in time, and it was less severe than it could have been."

Asked if he had problems with the arm before that outing, Grilli said: "It's one of those things, if you can't learn to play hurt in this game, then -- there's a lot of guys in this whole league that are playing not 100 percent. We're not the same condition right now. This is what you do as an athlete. You subject yourself to play when you're not 100 percent every day you're out there."

Grilli's 421/3 innings are only 161/3 innings shy of his total last season. He has 30 saves in 45 appearances, striking out 66 batters.

Grilli visited noted orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews for a second opinion and was away from the team until Monday. He was pleased to rejoin his teammates, albeit in a supporting role.

"I'm mentally here for my team," he said. "These guys in here have played great with or without me. I'm not in every game. I'm going to be here for them. I've been cheering from the TV the last few days."

He said he was disappointed he could not pitch in this week's series against the St. Louis Cardinals, whom the Pirates are chasing in the NL Central. He will be in uniform, in the bullpen with the rest of the relievers, to offer his support.

"The focus is not on me," he said.

"The focus is on what we're doing here. This is a big series. That's what I'm focused on."

But the days of the bullpen without its alpha dog, Grilli said, are numbered.

"I'm going to be ready before the season's out," he said. "You can mark my word on that."

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Bill Brink: bbrink@post-gazette.com and Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published July 30, 2013 4:00 AM


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