Pirates notebook: Clint Hurdle weighing options with closer

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NEW YORK — The Pirates will continue to take their time before officially re-installing Jason Grilli as the closer, manager Clint Hurdle said Tuesday.

“I don’t have a date. I think we’ll use our eyes on his next opportunity that he gets,” said Hurdle. “Just look at the pitch, the crispness, the ball in the glove.

“He’s not going to be far away. But I would like to get him out there another time before we make any kind of statement, get the bullpen together, proclaim roles and reshuffle them or let them know exactly how we’re going to go.”

Mark Melancon was the closer Monday against the New York Mets, but Hurdle said he was prepared to use Grilli next, if the score was tied.

Melancon gave up a solo home run, but got two strikeouts to end the game.

Hurdle said Melancon’s effectiveness in that role gives the club some options.

“I would like to get Jason out there another time in a different situation than we placed him the first time out,” Hurdle said. “Running him right back out in a save situation, it might not happen, but the overall bullpen I think is working to a better place.

“It also gives us a chance to maybe now use [Justin Wilson in] tight or behind [situations], maybe go left on left. [Jared] Hughes gives us a leverage opportunity that wasn’t there when he first came back. I think our bullpen is moving towards as good a place as it’s been all year.”

Grilli has appeared once since being reinstated from the disabled list May 23 after being sidelined by a left oblique strain.

Watson gets his first hit

Left-handed pitcher Tony Watson has taken a few swings in the majors, but none resulted in a hit until he lined one to left Monday in the Pirates’ ninth-inning rally.

The previous time he took a swing was in batting practice at spring training when former Pirates reliever Kent Tekulve threw him a few pitches in the cage.

“The spot kept coming closer and closer, and I had realized we had used so many bench guys to tie it up,” said Watson. “Either one of the starters was going to hit, or it was me. They said make sure you have a helmet. I used [Travis Snider’s] helmet, Snider’s bat, no batting gloves.”

Watson said he had no clue what pitch he hit.

“I was just trying to make contact honestly. I don’t even know what the pitch was. I don’t have any good strike-zone awareness or anything. Just tried to make contact and put it in play. Was lucky to get enough on base.”

For the record, he stroked an 88 mph cutter to left on a 2-2 count. Afterward, the Pirates tracked the ball down and gave it to Watson, who said he’ll save it and display it with all his other major league firsts.

“It felt a little awkward out there on first base. I was just hoping [Clint Barmes] was going to hit a double so I could try and score. That would’ve been pretty cool,” Watson said. “But it’s something I’ll always remember.”

Hughes keeps competing

Hurdle said the decision to designate Vin Mazzaro for assignment rather than send someone with options back to Class AAA — such as Hughes, for example — was performance based.

Hurdle said Hughes is deemed more valuable.

“The level of competitive skills that [Hughes has] shown, he was pitching better,” said Hurdle. “At this point, we didn’t feel comfortable enough sending a guy out who was giving us a competitive option out of the bullpen for a guy who was pitching better and trending up.

“We like Vin. We like him a lot. We thought he was doing some good things. But he wasn’t as sharp with his pitch sets as Jared has been since he’s been here.”

Digging deeper into replay

A contingent of Pirates coaches took the opportunity to visit Major League Baseball’s replay center in New York, including bench coach Jeff Bannister and the club’s video coordinator, Kevin Roach.

“We dug deeper in the plays that we still had questions about,” said Hurdle. “You don’t really get an explanation, you get a call. It was fact-finding.”

The experience also provided an explanation regarding the overturned out Monday at home plate. Russell Martin initially tagged Juan Lagares out, but, after a review, the Pirates catcher was deemed to be blocking the plate, and the call was overturned, giving the Mets a 2-0 lead.

“If he could’ve initially set up to one side of the plate and the play [had] taken him where it did, we probably could’ve gotten the call,” said Hurdle. “Easy said. Easy, easy said. … That’s the hard part. Guys have been doing this for so many years. First move is the first move. We’re almost having to re-boot some computers mentally on those spontaneous plays.

“We’ve got to initially set up on the side, then make an athletic play, and you’re going to have a better opportunity to get a call.”


Jenn Menendez: jmenendez@post-gazette.com and Twitter @JennMenendez.

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