The bullpen for the Pirates this season has been a huge key to the teams’ success, and Jason Grilli has perhaps been the most effective pitcher out of it. The veteran reliever has played in the major leagues with Florida, the Chicago White Sox, Detroit, Colorado, Texas, and Pittsburgh throughout his career. While pitching for the Pirates this year, Grilli has seen fantastic success as the eighth inning set up man.
“I was never an eighth inning guy and I never had this opportunity up until this year,” said Grilli.
Grilli has been a strikeout machine so far this season, ranking sixth among National League relievers in strikeouts. Some would argue Joel Hanrahan has been the best reliever for the Pirates this season, but if you were to take out one rough outing against Arizona in early August, Grilli’s ERA would most likely be under two.
“It feels good,” Grilli said. “I’ve set out to do this ever since I signed last year.”
We have seen Grilli get extremely fired up on the mound throughout the course of the year. Whether it was striking out the side against San Francisco or punching out Brandon Phillips with the tying run in scoring position, we have seen a fair share of moments this season in which Grilli has shown some real emotion coming off the mound.
“It’s just me being me and I don’t intentionally go out there and say ‘I’m going to fist pump tonight.’ When I get guys out, it’s just what comes and I can’t really express it any other way.”
When asked about his epic celebration in June after his first save of the season, Grilli joked, “My intensity is not fake, although I did read a couple of fist pumping 101 books on the shelves in Cooperstown.”
“I’ve changed. I’m a different person than I was at the beginning of the year. My mentality of how I’ve gone about being the set up man has rolled into the character people look at me like, with the fist pumping and that stuff.”
Whether he’s celebrating a strikeout, screaming in excitement, or just being dominant on the mound, Grilli never fails to keep the fans entertained.
“I’m not going to do a summersault like (Aroldis) Chapman. I don’t know if I could do one, I might be too old,” Grilli joked again.
Grilli leads the National League in holds, with 28, an extremely underrated statistic, which is not looked at enough by baseball enthusiasts.
“I’ve been through a lot, and to be put into this successful position and to be in some intense situations facing the heart of the order and just getting the chance to win is what I’m all about.”
A fan favorite, Grilli always makes time for the Pirate faithful. You might catch him in batting practice signing autographs, taking pictures with little kids, or just having a fun time with anyone at the ballpark.
“I know how important it is and I know how much it means to fans,” Grilli said. “I can remember being a twelve year old kid and really wanting to be where I’m at today, and always just wanting the chance to talk to a big league player.”
Grilli, at the age of 35, is having a career year. He has already set his career high in strikeouts for a season, and set a team record earlier this year, striking out at least one batter in nineteen straight appearances to start the season.
Being the oldest player in the bullpen, Grilli has taken a big part in helping out the younger players.
“I want to win. I know I can only be in this game a little longer and then I’m passing the baton on to the younger guys.”
Through the thick and thin of injuries, Grilli has had some serious speed bumps through out his days in the big leagues. With two Tommy John surgeries and an awful knee incident under his belt, Grilli questioned whether or not he would be able to play after his torn quadriceps tendon in 2010.
“I’m trying to get the max out of everything, after my career was almost literally taken away from me. I knew right then and there I wanted it back more than ever after having two elbow surgeries.”
“Well I’m not done yet,” Grilli claims. After making a World Series run in 2006 with the Detroit Tigers, Grilli would love to make one more run in the playoffs. Hopefully a successful few more weeks could help Grilli meet his goal. With his days in the major leagues on the verge of coming to an end, fans should enjoy watching Grilli pitch, the man who turned his career as a journey man reliever into a shutdown set up man for the Pirates.
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