Pirates Notebook Exclusive: Jeff Locke “Stands Behind” Lack of Trades

Jeff Locke Pirates

Jeff Locke has entrenched himself in the Pirates rotation, and he is fine the team made no changes. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

We just really wanted to use the word exclusive, because it looks fancier than “one-on-one.”

Starting pitcher Jeff Locke has a unique perspective on the Pirates organization. The 25-year-old was drafted out of high school by the Atlanta Braves, and he spent 3.5 years pitching for the winning franchise before joining the Pirates in the Nate McLouth trade. Locke then spent the next 3.5 years in Pittsburgh’s minor league system. It’s safe to say the culture of winning is stronger for the Braves than for the Pirates.

In spending parts of seven seasons in the minors, Locke had a different view of the trade market than he does now.

“You’d see the trade deadline come up and be like ‘Ah man, we should have gotten that guy. We should have gotten this guy,’” Locke said. “You don’t really understand everything at that point. You don’t understand how important team chemistry is.”

A Fresh View

Jeff Locke

Locke worked his way through the Pirates’ minor leagues the last four seasons.

The 2013 season represents Locke’s first full Big League campaign, and an All-Star one given his 2.36 ERA and .215 opponents’ batting average in starting a team-high 21 games. He does not carry the burden of 20 straight losing seasons or even players’ disappointment the last two seasons when big-name players were not added at the trade deadline. This year, he and his teammates realize that the trade market was a ghost town throughout baseball, especially the National League Central.

“Nobody got anybody,” Locke said. “I think some of them might be the names are bigger than the person… If we were gonna make a move, it was gonna be to get somebody significant. I’m not up in the office, so I don’t what they’re saying or what they’re trying to get.”

Locke did drop names like Cubs outfielders David DeJesus and Nate Schierholtz, but says personally “it almost makes you feel better” that general manager Neal Huntington kept the “special” roster in tact and believed in the currently constructed team.

Back to that unique perspective: this is the first season since 2009 that Locke has not been in a minor league clubhouse. Those years provided hundreds of games for him to watch the Pirates’ wealth of prospects. And knowing what is coming to Pittsburgh the next few years only makes him support Huntington’s lack of action even more.

“If you want to go out and give away your whole farm system for two months of somebody’s career and a chunk of change, then that’s a decision that you make collectively up top,” Locke said. “But we have a lot down there. We have the players in the system to do whatever we want to do.”

Bonus Notes!

  • Pirates manager Clint Hurdle does not plan on using Monday’s off-day to skip a start for Locke or Gerrit Cole (both on pace for about 190 regular-season innings). Hurdle, his catchers and the coaches are still conversing, but he expects every starter will simply get one extra day off between starts.
  • Hurdle on his fielders, still the National League’s most efficient defense by turning 71.2 percent of balls in play into outs: “The players have bought in to the stakes we’re playing on defense with the number of shifts, the new technology and analysis system we’re using.”
  • What’s different about this year’s slow August start? On this day one year ago, the Pirates had a 59.3 percent chance to make the playoffs according to Baseball Prospectus. They currently sit with 98.5 percent playoff odds.
  • Locke on the Pirates’ bullpen and comeback-happy offense: “I say this with so much truth and honesty: I’ve never been on a team where I come out of the game and I knew it wasn’t over yet. I think every pitcher has gotta feel that way on this team right now.”
  • Pedro Alvarez will sit Saturday rather than face Colorado Rockies LHP Jorge De La Rosa, who has kept left-handed hitters to a .214 batting average and zero home runs this year. Two of the NL’s best southpaw hitters will be in the lineup, though. Starling Marte owns a .387 average vs. left-handed pitchers this year, second in the NL, and Andrew McCutchen is third with a .371 average.
  • Hurdle on the success of Saturday’s starter: “Liriano’s just been in a very consistent place with repeating the delivery. The ball out of his hand looks like a strike. What you see from him that I’ve probably seen a little bit more: you see really good hitters chasing some balls that normally they might not chase,” adding that Liriano “used to try to overpower” hitters with runners on base but does not as much anymore. The lefty enters Saturday owning a 2.16 ERA, 100 strikeouts and 37 walks over 95.2 innings.
  • Unavailable in the bullpen for Saturday’s game: Justin Wilson, Jared Hughes and Jeanmar Gomez.
James Santelli

Author: James Santelli

James covers the Pirates beat for Pirates Prospects. He is a Broadcast Journalism student at USC and has written for such outlets as NBCOlympics.com, Pittsburgh Magazine and the official websites of the Los Angeles Clippers and Pittsburgh Penguins. James previously covered the Pirates for Pittsburgh Sports Report. He also broadcasts play-by-play for the USC Trojans baseball team and was awarded the 2013 Chick Hearn Memorial Scholarship and Allan Malamud Scholarship. James dispenses puns at his Twitter account (@JamesSantelli) where he promises to write in first-person. Google

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  • jamminjoe66

    A little off subject I have noticed the last couple of months it seems every time Mercer is hitting 2nd the Pirates score at least 5 runs. Can someone @ PP check the stats.

    • James Santelli

      It’s small sample and largely meaningless, but…

      The Pirates are averaging 5.9 runs in the 18 games Mercer has started in the No. 2 spot

  • Bucco_Joe

    Does anybody else think Locke would call the GM an idiot for not making a trade? Does anybody else think Locke would trow his teammates under the bus and say the production we have received from RF is terrible?

    • brilemon

      Yeah really… This is quotable in all it’s 20/20 hindsight genius.
      However, Tabata came up huge for this article! Ha

    • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

      You mean, unlike Walker did last year?

      :)

    • buster09

      Bucco Joe : how do you think the Braves REALLY feel about the production from BJ Upton ? Or the Angels REALLY feel about the production from Pujols and Hamilton ? Have you read what the Phillies REALLY feel about Howard and Ben Revere ? Or the performance of thewir GM ? I didn’t think so. Do you detect a patterm here ?

      • Bucco_Joe

        So Buster, what was REALLY the point of the original article??

        • buster09

          Joe , instead of all your skepticism aimed at the ” cheap ” orginization,( which we know that was your point ),try thinking of it this way : they probably looked at the last 3 years of Rio’s production and figured he wasn’t worth any of the prospects required to make the deal,let alone the $ 18 mil.

    • James Santelli

      I wouldn’t write the piece if I thought Locke was simply giving the company line about supporting the general manager. His words are genuine. If you read his quotes closely, he gives particularly good insight about what it is like to be a minor leaguer at the deadline and how his perspective has changed.

      • Bucco_Joe

        Jim, I am sure that Locke was genuine about his comments. I’m sure he believes they can win with their current roster. Likewise had the Pirates added at bat (RF for example), I’m sure he would be equally positive that the organization made a commitment to winning a championship this year. I sincerely hope the reason they didn’t add at the deadline was the prospects required,, rather than not wanting to pay Rios the entire 18 million he was owned this year and next. However with the history of this organization I have my doubts.

        • James Santelli

          Well then there you go. It’s more about your thoughts about the trade deadline, rather than Locke’s :)

  • emjayinTN

    James: Excellent article. Jeff Locke stated what the rest of the team was thinking – this team is special and he was glad the front office did not make moves simply to make moves because it was the non-waiver trading deadline. And it was necessary that it came from a pitcher, the only part of the team never mentioned for possible additions. I did not read anything in the article of Locke being demeaning to NH or the production from RF. Right on cue, Jose Tabata, Gaby Sanchez, and James Harrison all turned in excellent games to support the shutout pitching of Francisco Liriano, who has quickly become one of the best pitchers in the NL. Let’s Go Bucs.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

      unlike last year, where Walker sorta called out the FO. I notice he was ‘strangely silent’ this year……lol

      Foo

  • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

    James…you wrote:

    “The 2013 season represents Locke’s first full Big League campaign, and an All-Star one”

    I think we can say this:
    “The 2013 season represents James’ first full P2 campaign, and an All-Star one”

    jmho, of course :)

    Foo

    • James Santelli

      Well thank you kindly, Lee