BRADENTON, Fla. -- With 15 days and a language gap between appearances, Jason Grilli did not miss a beat -- or a chance to instill confidence in his ability to flourish as the Pirates' new closer.
Fresh from the World Baseball Classic hothouse, Grilli returned to the chill-out Grapefruit League on Monday, pitching one perfect inning in the Bucs' 4-3 comeback win over the Red Sox.
"Everything feels great," Grilli said after an inning in which no ball was hit out of the infield off him. "It was nice to be back in a game, facing hitters. That's who those guys standing there with bats were, right?"
Grilli had last pitched in a game on March 6, when he saved Italy's win over Mexico in the Classic. He had thrown only bullpen sessions since.
"Whether he was effective or ineffective, it was just good to have him back pitching," manager Clint Hurdle said. "He was sharp, had a good carry to his fastball and threw a couple of breaking balls with nice bite."
Grilli's interrupted Spring Training has consisted of five innings -- even including the one inning he pitched in the Classic. He agreed with his manager's assessment that he would not need, say, 20 innings to be ready for the regular season.
"I was throwing in the upper-90s in the Classic and showed I was able to throw 30 pitches in an inning," Grilli said, alluding to closing out the win over Mexico after the bases got loaded. "That wasn't ideal, but that was two innings worth of bullets and I was strong enough to do it. Now I'm just trying to get locked in, focused on what I'm supposed to do."
Grilli likes doing it for these guys -- who apparently like to have him do it.
"Seeing these guys and hearing them say they missed me," Grilli said with a broad grin, "I guess it means I'm liked around here a little bit, so that's good."
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.