Locke relieved after first relief appearance

Locke relieved after first relief appearance

PITTSBURGH -- Jeff Locke had gone up against big league hitters before, but never as a relief pitcher.

It was in that role that the 24-year-old lefty entered Thursday's game against Arizona, with two outs and a runner on second in the seventh inning. He brought the frame to a close by retiring Chris Johnson, the first of seven straight hitters to come up empty against the young pitcher.

Locke was perfect during his 2 1/3 innings, notching a strikeout and keeping the deficit from getting out of hand. The Pirates still lost, 6-3, but it wasn't because of Locke's effort.

"I liked what we saw today," manager Clint Hurdle said following Thursday's game. "[He had] very good composure on the mound. Mixed his pitches well. Kept the ball in the strike zone. Used all his pitches."

Locke was pleased with the way his first Major League appearance of 2012 went, too. Last year he made four starts with the Pirates and went 0-3 with a 6.48 ERA.

"The nervousness of, I guess, the first impression was kind of gone. I know it's a different role, relieving as opposed to starting," Locke said before Friday's series opener against San Diego. "Pitching is pitching, no matter whether you're starting or relieving. It's all the same game. Getting my feet wet last year definitely made it a little bit easier on me this time around."