PITTSBURGH -- Through 2009, Jason Grilli was already a Major League veteran who in eight seasons had never had a higher strikeout rate than the 9.2 (per nine innings) he reached in '09, and had a 6.6 career mark.
Now, the Pirates setup man has fanned 20 in his first 11 innings, a rate of 16.4. Yes, the man who goes by GrillCheese on Twitter, is throwing hard cheese.
If you didn't know better, you'd think Grilli sat out all of the 2010 season to get that bionic arm transplant. He did spend that year recovering from a surgery -- but it was on his right knee.
The 35-year-old Grilli ascribes the late-career change to having fully adapted to his relief role (he dabbled in starting when he broke in with the 2000 Marlins) and not having any other reasons for holding back.
"I'm just laying it all on the line," Grilli said. "I'm bowing my neck and going after it, and being as aggressive as I can be. I'm throwing every pitch with conviction, which is what you have to do in this role. I don't try to strike everyone out, that's not really my first priority. I'd like to get an out on the first pitch, if possible.
"But later in a game I know [a strikeout] is always a big thing. The strikeout does come into play. With two strikes now, I go for it. I've had to earn my way through this whole thing, and going through the adversity has helped me develop a lot of confidence."