Grilli, Hurdle bonded long ago

Relationship paid dividend Sunday

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The long, winding career of closer Jason Grilli took a serendipitous turn with one loaded question in the Coors Stadium outfield the spring of 2008.

Grilli took a moment to reflect back on his career Monday after his first postseason save Sunday, and shared the first conversation he had with Clint Hurdle when the two first crossed paths in Denver.

Grilli, a first-round draft pick, had been traded to the Colorado Rockies by the Detroit Tigers for a minor leaguer where Hurdle was managing.

The two met, exchanged pleasantries, then Hurdle cut right to the heart of the matter: "What do you want out of your career?"

The frankness caught Grilli by surprise, but opened the door to a relationship and bond that eventually led to the reliever joining the Pirates in 2011 and now this October.

"I thought that was a pretty loaded question for making an introduction to my new manager," said Grilli. "I felt there was an opportunity in time to just tell him that I wanted more out of my career ... I said, 'Well, I know I'm capable of doing a lot more. I want to do something significant if I'm going to be pitching in the bullpen and work my way toward the back end, whatever the back end may be. To be an eighth- or ninth-inning guy, especially a closer.' "

Hurdle clearly remembered the conversation.

He had gotten some feedback from Tigers manager Jim Leyland and other coaches on Grilli, but wanted to hear from the man himself.

"Jason and I had some common fabric in being No. 1 picks. Maybe it's not going as well of a script as we would have liked," said Hurdle.

"When he got there, I just kind of looked him in the eyes ... and I just kind of flat out asked him. I said, 'What are you still in this for and what do you want to be? Where do you want this to go?'

"He point blank told me he wanted to pitch at the end of the ballgames."

Three years later, the two reconnected when Grilli was signed by the Pirates in 2011.

Sunday, Grilli earned his first postseason save and said he stayed up thinking about a lot of things, his career, what he ultimately wants, about the carrot he has taped to the wall in front of a grueling core workout machine he trains on, called Jacobs Ladder.

"I was up [Sunday] night thinking about a lot of stuff," said Grilli.

"What's my carrot? Obviously, a World Series is the ultimate carrot for me and for everybody in that room. I've always wanted to do something special in the game. I have had lofty dreams no different than anybody else. You want to make a mark."

pirates

Jenn Menendez: jmenendez@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1959 and Twitter @JennMenendez. First Published October 7, 2013 9:23 PM


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