July 10th, 2012
Seton Hall Pitcher Helping Pirates
Former Seton Hall Pirate helping Pirates to top of Division
by Bud Poliquin - article from syracuse.com
Syracuse, N.Y. -- Now, don’t for a second think that Jason Grilli isn’t delighted to be home with his bride and son down there in Florida on this fine summer day. With work to be done on that awful farmer’s tan of his and with dinner to be cooked on the backyard grill, he’ll be busy enough with the happy chores of a mini-vacation.
Meanwhile, if Jason’s right arm -- which has become a fascination in Pittsburgh, where talk of baseball has (if only for the moment) replaced discussion of Roethlisberger and Crosby -- could talk, it would surely thank him for the down time.
But . . .
“I’m very disappointed with the dog-and-pony show that goes with the All-Star Game,” said Grilli during a telephone conversation on Monday afternoon, “because I know my numbers are better than some of the closers who are there. That’s how it goes, though. It’s very political. But I’ll take my rest, if it means getting us to the postseason.”
There are, of course, two remarkable statements within those words and both are truer than the chimes of a church:
(1) With his 21 holds, 1.87 earned run average and 54-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio in his 33 2/3 innings of work, Jason Grilli, the one-time Baldwinsville Bee, would have been a worthy member of the National League All-Star team that will take on the Americans this evening in Kauffman Stadium.
(2) The Pirates, who sit in first place in the NL Central with a record of 48-37 after having strung together 19 consecutive losing campaigns, could be bound for the playoffs just like those Clementes and Stargells of yore.
So, go on. Tell the neighbors. And be sure to advise them that No. 2 might not be the reality it is if not for the evolution of No. 1.
How good has Jason Grilli -- 35, and bruised after having traveled the gravel road from Syracuse to stardom -- been here in 2012 with his sixth major-league club? Here are a few barometers:
His average of 14.44 Ks-per-9-innings is fourth in the bigs among those with at least 30 innings pitched behind Cincinnati’s Aroldis Chapman (16.25), Atlanta’s Craig Kimbrel (15.27) and the Los Angeles Angels’ Ernesto Frieri (14.92). His WHIP is 0.95. He’s allowed a scant seven earned runs (on just 17 hits) in his 35 appearances. He’s struck out 40.2% of the batters he’s faced. The contending Pirates, who are more than merely pesky and more than only Andrew McCutchen, are 27-8 in those contests in which he’s appeared.
Yadda (fans are wearing replica uniforms with his name on the back) . . . yadda (a banner bearing his life-sized likeness hangs from one of PNC Park's gorgeous limestone walls) . . . yadda (kids have told him that he’s their favorite Pirate).
“I may not be on the All-Star team, but I’m proud of what I’ve done,” Grilli said. “I’m not facing the 7-8-9 guys. I’m facing the 3-4-5s of the lineups and those are the guys who are in Kansas City right now. The Cabreras, the Fielders, the Beltrans, the Hollidays. You know the names. Those are the guys I’m punching out. Those are the guys I’m making look silly.”
It is not bragging if it’s a fact, and the statistics suggest that Jason -- Pittsburgh’s 6-foot-5, 225-pound eighth-inning guy and the set-up man for the Pirates’ closer, Joel Hanrahan -- was not boasting as he spoke while sitting poolside a thousand miles (and then some) from Kansas City.
Rather, he was gratified.
And why not? After overcoming, among other setbacks, a bulging disc in his upper back, a fractured elbow, Tommy John surgery and a shredded knee . . . after suiting up for 18 outfits in nine organizations across eight leagues . . . after being traded twice and released twice -- and all since signing out of Seton Hall University as the fourth overall pick in the 1997 draft -- he’s entitled.
“I don’t want to over-dramatize or over-glamorize what I’m doing,” Grilli said. “But I couldn’t be happier with the way things have turned out. I’ve always wanted to have an important role, whether it was starting or relieving. And finally, after all this time, here it is. I’ve made my way to the back of the bullpen for a first-place team, and I’m making the most of it by throwing every damn pitch like it’s my last.
“This isn’t the picture that I envisioned when I got drafted, no. It’s more like a Polaroid that is continuing to develop. But I look around and see some of my former teammates on the way out and I’m still going strong. And, for me, that's kind of cool. You know how they say that a fine wine gets better with age? Well, maybe that’s me. Maybe I’m just a good bottle of Chianti.”
The Pirates, certainly, are more than pleased that he's on their rack. Ask them -- why, ask all of Pittsburgh -- and you'll probably hear that Jason is . . . well, that he is of a certain vintage. An All-Star vintage. Right now, anyway, he wouldn't argue the point.