Jason Grilli Removed From Closer Role

The Pittsburgh Pirates have removed Jason Grilli from the closer’s role, Clint Hurdle announced to the media this afternoon. Grilli will be replaced by Mark Melancon. Jenn Menendez says that Grilli will get work when the team is behind.

Yesterday, Max Fogle detailed the struggles from Grilli this year. Last night I wrote that the Pirates needed to switch to Melancon. This is a move that makes sense in the short-term and long-term. Grilli was struggling, while Melancon has been pitching well and looks to be the better option right now. You don’t want to release Grilli based on a small sample size of innings, but you don’t want him pitching important innings while he’s trying to get things figured out. Having him pitching when the team is behind is a good situation for him. It gives him low pressure innings, and allows the Pirates to use their better relievers when they’re ahead.

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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I guess no one told Grilli his closing career is over. I loved the fire he pitched with this afternoon, and the two baserunners do not deter me. I think he finds his way back at some point to the 9th inning role, he certainly appears to have the correct attitude coming off his demotion.

Nick Rexilius

I still think Watson would be a better option than Melancon! I’m just not super confident in Mark anymore


He seems to have rediscovered his out pitch. When he was struggling last fall, he wasn’t striking out anyone it seemed. And patient hitters were taking him oppo. His BABIP is down significantly, which may indicate a regression is due. His walks are up a bit. But he appears to have the confidence back to attack, so the role probably should go to him over Watson.

I ultimately think Watson will close here or elsewhere, but when he’s had the opportunity to close, it hasn’t gone well. He’s got 4 blown saves this year already.

Josh Dz

yeah but blown saves for a set up guy are a lot different than when a closer has a blown save… yes Watson got one the other night in th 8th versus the Marlins…. and a Pedro Error lead to that…

but if TW comes in in the 8th with a guy on 3rd and one out and gives up a sac fly that ties the game he gets a blown save in the 8th…

Im fairly certain you can get a blown save in the 7th as well.. thats a lot differnt than a 9th inning blown save when your starting the inning fresh


Watson hasn’t come in all that often mid-inning. He’s got a 90% strand rate. His blown saves vs. CHC, MIL, MIA were all on his own. I understand what you’re saying, and he’s among the hold leaders, but it’s still 3 blown saves in 20 hold/save opptys. Not horrible but not top notch either.

Nick Rexilius

Your probably right. I just want Watson to close so that when he gets the save I can yell “ELEMENTARY FOR WATSON!” Haha 😉

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