Bucs' Locke out with back stiffness
July 14, 2013 2:50 AM

PITTSBURGH — Jeff Locke’s back forced the issue of whether he would pitch in next week’s All-Star game.

The Pittsburgh Pirates left-hander will miss today’s start against the New York Mets and sit out the midsummer classic after his back tightened up during a 2-1 loss to Oakland on Tuesday.

“It hasn’t happened before, that’s why I’m speechless,” Locke said. “I’ve never had anything pop up like this.”

Gerrit Cole will start in Locke’s place against the Mets, and National League manager Bruce Bochy will have to find a replacement for Locke on the 34-man All-Star roster.

Locke, 25, has been one of the biggest surprises for one of baseball’s most surprising teams. He emerged from a heated battle during spring training to make the team as the fifth starter and has flourished. He is 8-2 in 18 starts, and his 2.15 ERA ranks second in the majors behind Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw.

Locke said he felt some discomfort toward the end of his seven innings of work against the Athletics. The symptoms lingered into Wednesday and flared up again during a weightlifting session.

“I felt like I opened up the wound again,” he said.

He went through his normal bullpen routine Friday and again Saturday, but he and the Pirates decided it was best not to force the issue with Cole available. The former No. 1 pick is 4-2 with a 3.68 ERA and will start on five days’ rest.

Locke, a New Hampshire native, will travel to New York for the All-Star festivities but will not be available to play. Barring a setback, Locke will make his next start on Sunday, July 21, against the Cincinnati Reds.

“The only thing I’m disappointed about is not being able to go (Sunday),” Locke said. “It’s not one of those things where I can’t go (Sunday) but I can go in the All-Star game. I think it’d be disrespectful to the team. I don’t think it’s even questionable. ... I’ll just go there and enjoy it and come back after the break.”

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