Pirates take Grilli out of closer role

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CHICAGO (AP) – Jason Grilli is off to a rough start for the Pittsburgh Pirates, and manager Clint Hurdle thinks he knows the best way to get the key reliever back on track.

Hurdle announced Friday that Mark Melancon would close games for the Pirates in place of Grilli, who has blown four save opportunities this year after converting 33 of 35 chances last season.

“There’s no safety net for a closer. There never is,” Hurdle said before the opener of a weekend series against the Chicago Cubs. “So he won’t have to deal with that for a while, which I think will help.”

Grilli allowed a tying homer to Devin Mesoraco in the ninth inning of Thursday’s 4-3 victory over Cincinnati. The veteran right-hander, who made the All-Star team last year for the first time, has yielded at least one run in three of his past four outings, and his four homers allowed this season matches his total from all of last year.

The 37-year-old Grilli is 0-2 with 11 saves and a 4.34 ERA in 20 games this year. He was sidelined for a month after straining his left oblique in late April.

For now, Hurdle said he will use Grilli when the Pirates are trailing.

“He’s all about doing what’s best for the club and getting better,” Hurdle said. “We’ll definitely need him as the season plays out.”

Melancon is 1-2 with 10 saves in 13 chances and a 1.89 ERA in 35 games this year. He has not allowed a run in eight games and 7 1-3 innings in June.

Hurdle said he also could use Tony Watson in a save opportunity.

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