The Pittsburgh Pirates made the expected moves to recall Jeff Locke, Jared Hughes, Andrew Lambo, and Tony Sanchez from Altoona today. They also activated Jason Grilli from the disabled list, which was a bit unexpected since there was talk that he could make one more rehab appearance. All five players will be active for tonight’s game.
The Pirates optioned Locke, Hughes, Lambo, and Sanchez to Altoona instead of Indianapolis so that they could be called up before their ten days in the minors was up. Normally a player would have to spend ten days on optional assignment before getting called up. However, Altoona’s season ended last night, allowing the Pirates to call those players up without waiting the full ten days.
Locke should rejoin the rotation, and it would be a smart move to put him in the rotation tomorrow, pushing Francisco Liriano back a game to face the Cardinals. Lambo and Sanchez will both be bats off the bench. With John Buck on the roster, Sanchez is free for pinch hitting duties. It might be hard to find playing time for Lambo after the additions of Marlon Byrd and Justin Morneau, especially with Jose Tabata playing so well and Garrett Jones needing playing time. Hughes will obviously help out in the bullpen.
The bullpen just got a lot stronger with the return of Grilli. The closer made a rehab appearance in Altoona on Monday, which Jake Oswalt recapped here. He was expected to make one more rehab appearance with Indianapolis on Wednesday, but came back early. There was talk that Grilli might not jump back into the closer role right away, but the Pirates have that luxury. Mark Melancon can handle the ninth inning with Grilli pitching in the eighth, although if you’re a fan of your best reliever pitching in higher leverage situations, you might want to keep Grilli locked in the ninth, and move Melancon up for those higher leverage spots, since you could argue Melancon is better. The Pirates have also been getting a great performance out of Tony Watson in the second half, so they’re now set up for a strong 7th-9th inning with the return of Grilli.