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Grilli vows to return to closer's role

by WILL GRAVES AP Sports Writer on July 30, 2013 10:50 AM

PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Pirates closer Jason Grilli has no intention of sitting out the Pirates’ bid for their first postseason appearance in more than two decades.

Grilli remains out indefinitely with a strained tendon in his right (throwing) arm, but said Monday “I’m going to be ready before the season’s out, you can mark my word on that.”

The 36-year-old made the first All-Star team of his career earlier this month and has converted 30 of 31 save opportunities, but he experienced searing pain in his right forearm while trying to finish off a victory over the Washington Nationals last Monday.

Grilli acknowledges he’d been dealing with some discomfort in the arm for a while and wasn’t 100 perfect but doesn’t see any benefit in wondering if he should have come out sooner.

“I’m not going to put myself in a position, could I have shut myself down earlier? That’s all in hindsight,” he said. “I could have. But I’m the type of guy that wants to get the ball every time. That’s the way I’ve been my entire career.”

An MRI revealed no damage to his elbow, something Grilli called “the best possible scenario.” Instead of surgery, he will rest the arm for another week before being re-examined. Though there is no timetable for his return, the usual recovery period for a strained flexor is 1-2 months.

Still, it hasn’t exactly been fun for Grilli to play the cheerleader instead of the hammer at the back of one of the best bullpens in the majors.

“It’s hard to watch baseball going on without you,” he said. “But I’m here in this clubhouse and not on a surgery table.”

Mark Melancon, who made the All-Star team as a setup man, is filling in for Grilli and has converted both save chances since moving into the closer’s role as the Pirates try to chase down St. Louis in the NL Central race.

The Cardinals have a half-game lead heading into a second game of a five-game set in Pittsburgh that is the biggest series at PNC Park since it opened in 2001.

It’s a showdown Grilli has been pointing to for weeks. He’ll spend it watching rather than playing as the Pirates try to take an important step toward escaping from the cloud of 20 consecutive losing seasons.

It’s a cloud he’s done his best to part. Whenever his right arm tells him it’s ready to go, he believes there will still be important games to play. The Pirates and the Cardinals meet in St. Louis from Aug. 13-15 and again in Pittsburgh Aug. 30-Sept. 1.

“My turn will come again,” Grilli said.

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