It has been a season of ups and downs for Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Jeff Locke, which has culminated to this point, a return to the bullpen.
Locke was given the news by Hurdle on Friday, and it became public knowledge the next day.
This placement in the bullpen seems to be more long term and may last through the entire season.
Locke’s last start was Wednesday against the Atlanta Braves, and he allowed five runs in 4.1 innings.
Since the All-Star Break, Locke is 0-2 with a 9.89 ERA in three appearances.
Though his eight wins tie for the second-highest mark of his career, his 5.63 ERA ranks second-highest, as well, to a short appearance in the 2011 season, his first with the team.
Following Saturday night’s win against the Cincinnati Reds, Locke met exclusively with PSN to discuss the move and season to date.
PSN: As a professional, everyone has the mindset of taking the ball. What were your thoughts when Clint Hurdle told you that you’re going to the bullpen for the foreseeable future?
Jeff Locke: “I’m a little frustrated of course because when you’re a starting pitcher and you’re anything but a starting pitcher, it’s probably not good for you. I put myself in this spot, too. I had plenty of opportunities this season and threw some really great games, but the bad ones were bad and they weren’t just acceptable. While they happened, it was one after another for a time there and that was very frustrating.
“I think this is the best situation for everybody going forward just to kind of put an end to that for the rest of this season and go to the bullpen where I’ve been effective. Obviously you don’t go down there expecting to have some kind of role. Opportunities present themselves, and when you get a chance to go in there and pitch, just do the best job you can and try salvage the rest of this season. The biggest thing too was that I wasn’t mad, I wasn’t saying it was a bad idea, nothing like that. I didn’t really have a whole lot of room to speak.
“I understand how the game goes and I understand the performances I’ve put forth this season, and they just haven’t been good enough for a team that’s trying to go places. I think we finish this season in the bullpen, and then we’ve got an off-season to evaluate what we’re going to do next. I don’t see myself as a bullpen guy. I think that’s where I’ll be the rest of this season, but I don’t think my career as a starter is over by any means.
“Sometimes you just dig your hole so deep that it’s tough to climb out, and I think that’s exactly what’s happened this season. Going forward, you just have to be he best teammate you can, and it’s never going to be about one person especially on this team, it’s not about a lot of egos.”
PSN: How do you balance the pride you take from getting that ball at the beginning of the game to what the current situation is, and what you will have to do the rest of the season?
Locke: “Obviously being in the bullpen is a lot shorter of a term than being a starter. I think my stuff plays really well one time, and as I said before, I don’t think my career as a starter is over. I just believe this was the best step for us going forward. It’s not like this just happened in the last two weeks. There’s been a handful of great games, but there’s been two handfuls of poor ones.
“We’re not out of anything, and the guys coming up you’re going to want to get a good look at. (Jameson) Taillon has been lights out since he’s been up here, Gerrit (Cole) is back and healthy, Vogey (Ryan Vogelsong) put together a great one the other night and sometimes you just find yourself out.
“I think you have to carry that mentality of simplifying the game a little bit and go out and make a pitch and repeat. If you go out there and have a bad one on Monday, in my situation I may have a chance to change that on Wednesday. It’s different than the starting aspect which has been tough for me this season with the failures on the mound because it is one a week. You have the off days and getting pushed around without having the consistent opportunities every five days. It’s been one poor game and 10 days to dwell on it, and that’s the tough part.
“When I heard the news I wasn’t going to pout or moan or complain. You can’t say ‘geez, look how good I’ve done.’ There’s no argument there. You go back to the drawing board and have the best two months you can possibly have.”