Pirates' Grilli eyes Saturday for return to roster

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In the wake of another successful simulated game Wednesday, closer Jason Grilli targeted Saturday for his potential return to the Pirates active roster.

Grilli threw 20 pitches in one inning at PNC Park facing some of his teammates and was pleased with how he felt afterward.

"Same thing, same result," said Grilli, who also threw a simulated inning Tuesday. "Same expectations. Same bike ride. It was fun."

A Saturday activation would give Grilli, on the disabled list because of a strained left oblique, two days of rest after two consecutive days of work.

"The one thing you don't want to have, really, is a situation where you're bringing a guy back on your major league roster and he's still kind of rehabbing," manager Clint Hurdle said.

Grilli's fastball velocity and the movement on his slider were both strong, Hurdle said, and pitching coach Ray Searage liked what he saw from Grilli's seldom-used changeup.

"We will see how he feels [today]," Hurdle said. "If there's not any physical setback, there could be a real opportunity he could be joining us on Saturday."

Unlike last season, when Grilli went on a rehabilitation assignment while working his way back from a flexor strain in his right forearm, he said this injury did not lend itself to a trip to the minors.

"I felt strongly this time around that I wanted to face big-league hitters," Grilli said.

Martin's return also nears

The Pirates pushed Russell Martin and his recovering left hamstring hard Tuesday and planned to do so again Wednesday, Hurdle said. From 2 p.m. until the end of the game Tuesday (around 10 p.m.), the Pirates had the veteran catcher working to simulate a full day of workouts, batting practice and innings behind the plate.

"He is of the opinion that through his work and all the work he's done with the training staff, the strength staff, the running, that he feels better than he did coming into spring training," Hurdle said.

Martin's hamstring has bothered him since spring training but forced him to the DL at the end of April. He, like Grilli, has said he doesn't think he needs a rehabilitation assignment. The Pirates are considering bringing him back without one.

"The player drives his bus," Hurdle said. "The players can say, no, I don't want to get to a rehab. We don't want it to get to that point of the conversation. We want to have communication on the pros and cons of both sides, see if there's a happy medium we can fit."

When Martin returns, he must serve a one-game suspension for his role in the fight April 20 with the Milwaukee Brewers.

Nostalgia and honors

Before the game Wednesday night against Baltimore, the Pirates honored members of the 1979 team that beat the Orioles in the World Series.

Bill Brink: bbrink@post-gazette.com and Twitter @BrinkPG.


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