BRADENTON — Whenever Pirates reliever Jason Grilli was given the ball last season with Pittsburgh, he thrived. Grilli pitched from the 5th inning on during the 2011 season, but it was in the back end of the ‘pen that Grilli enjoyed the most.
“I hope that’s my role,” Grilli said of pitching towards the back of the bucco bullpen. “I’ve always taken the ball whenever it’s been given to me, whatever inning that is. I worked my way to being a back end of a bullpen guy thanks to [Pirates Manager] Clint Hurdle. He’s been a very big proponent for me in my career from the time he said, ‘what do you want out of your career?’ I said, ‘I want to be in an important role in key situations’. He felt that I could handle the back end, the later innings. I like that. I always have.”
Grilli, who signed a one-year deal with the Pirates this offseason, will look tohelp hand the ball to closer Joel Hanrahan. But no matter which inning he ends up pitching, Grilli still takes the same mentality on the mound with him.
“I’ve said that even when I was a middle reliever with Detroit, coming into situations where I was in the third, fourth, fifth inning, bases loaded no outs and guys in the middle of the lineup that were up there. I said if I could do this in the middle of the game, I should be able to handle it at the end of the game,” Grilli said. “That’s the way I looked at it. I’ve always tried to challenge myself to be ready and this year is definitely no different. I like what’s going on here, and I want to be a part of it however they see fit.”
Heading into the new season, like many, Grilli said his goal this year is to stay healthy.
“I feel like I’m already ready. It’s more getting all my pitches to sink up and facing some hitters is really the only thing that’s lacking.”
They say age is just a number. And at 35, Grilli is proving just that.
Grilli spent the offseason working out hard to keep up with the younger guys in the Pirates bullpen. Grilli, who is one of many Buccos on twitter, tweeted throughout the offseason about being in the best shape in his life.
“I’m getting older,” Grilli said. I’m 35, I gotta’ keep up.”
After signing as a free agent in July last season, Grilli posted a 2.48 ERA over 28 appearances (32.2 innings) with Pittsburgh. Grilli referred to the 2011 season as a “comeback year” after missing the entire 2010 season due to right knee surgery.
“Last year was more of a comeback year, getting strong, almost losing my career to now, I was able to just get stronger as I regularly would,” Grilli said at day five of spring training at Pirate City. “It’s just something that I kept challenging myself because you have to.”
“I want to keep myself in the best shape because I don’t know when I’m going to say I’m done with this, or the game is done with me. Hopefully it’s the first statement. I want to take the jersey off when I want to, so I got to keep myself in the best shape. I really am pushing myself to limits that I never did before. I’m hoping that mentally and physically it’s going to carry me through a championship season here.”