According to Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com, the Pirates were one of a number of teams “represented” at a throwing session in Los Angeles Thursday afternoon featuring former San Francisco Giants closer Brian Wilson. Reports from a scout detail Wilson, coming off the second Tommy John surgery of his career, throwing between 90-93 miles per hour and saying Wilson is “not far away” after not pitching in a game in over 15 months.
Other teams in attendance were the Diamondbacks, Athletics, Phillies, Rockies, Rangers, Cardinals, and the Giants. San Francisco also hosted a workout for Wilson earlier in the week in front of San Francisco coaches.
As Knobler points out, Wilson may be a logical fit for the Pirates after Jason Grilli was placed on the 15-day disabled list earlier this week with a “right forearm strain”. The speculation may be a bit premature, as the Pirates are still in the process of gathering information regarding the exact status of Grilli’s arm according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Michael Sanserino.
Last season, general manager Neal Huntington landed Chad Qualls near the trade deadline to provide some bullpen help as Juan Cruz hit the DL. Qualls proceeded to post a 6.59 ERA over 17 appearances after his acquisition from the New York Yankees before he was placed on the 15-day DL on August 26 and stayed there for the remainder of the season.
In all honesty, the Pirates bullpen can likely survive a few weeks without the services of Jason Grilli. Pittsburgh was the only team in Major League Baseball to send a pair of relievers to the All-Star Game, and Mark Melancon’s 0.93 ERA and 0.807 WHIP are more than capable of stepping in to take over closing duties while the NL’s saves leader recovers.
Beyond Melancon, pitchers like Justin Wilson (6-1, 1.006 WHIP), Tony Watson (0.965 WHIP), and even Bryan Morris, despite giving up a walk-off homer to Bryce Harper earlier today, have all proven capable of filling in some of those innings normally pitched by “Mark and Cheese.”
The bullpen depth has allowed for the Pirates’ relieving corps to hold fast as one of the best in the league, and should keep the front office assured it can maintain its high level of production while Grilli is down without making a knee-jerk signing.